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Penguins Report: (Preseason) Game Day at Chicago

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Tonight's game is on TV (2:02 PM).
  • Injury updates from coach Bylsma (12:30 PM)
  • Orpik skated before Pens practice (9:41 AM)
  • Steve Mears gives you today's Pens Insider (3:07 PM)
  • Full rosters for tonight's game vs. Chicago (9:00 AM)
  • Line combos at morning skate (10:35 AM)
  • Non-game group skate included Picard (11:38 AM)
  • Pens worked on the PP during morning skate (10:49 AM)
  • Bylsma on Letang, Morrow, Letestu and Vitale (1:06 PM)
  • Sullivan and Michalek take time out to talk to PensTV (12:07 PM)
  • Game group morning skate pics (10:53 AM)
  • Non-game group practice pics (12:23 PM)
  • Around the rink: United Center edition (7:25 PM)

7:25 PM:


3:07 PM:
Steve Mears brings you Friday's Pens Insider.

2:02 PM:
Tonight's game against the Blackhawks will be on NHL Network. Click here for more details.

1:06 PM:
Here's the full edition of today's Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On who will be in goal tonight:
Brent Johnson is planning to play the whole game.

On making the final line decisions:
I think at this point there are some injuries that are preventing us from making some of those situations that you might see during the year or different combinations or different possibilities of lineups. Having said that, the last two games will be more of the defensive pairings more in the lineups that we may anticipate at some time plus the power play and the penalty kill. More like a regular season game in that regard. In terms of our team play, for a lot of guys it’s still about getting comfortable with what we’re asking, some of the terminology. It really is the final tune up for that kind of institution for some of the newer players and some of the new combinations.  

On Kris Letang’s expectations:
Kris’ expectation is to play at a higher level, more consistently all year long. I think that you saw a different level from Kris for the first half of last year. You saw the mentions of a Norris candidate. You saw him get the honor of being an All-Star. The second half of the season wasn’t as high as the first half of the season for him. And really for Kris, he’s looking for that consistency in his game, game in and game out at that level.

On Letang’s chemistry with Joe Morrow:
You talk about partners and that’s a guy who makes it easy to for people play with and understanding what’s going on – on the ice. Some of that’s attributed to hockey sense, but in our case a lot of that is attributed to knowing what to do, where to go in the system. Kris knows that extremely well. The experience for Joe has been one of playing with a veteran guy, who’s talking to him on the ice, helping him out. It’s been one of an older veteran mentoring to a younger player. That’s what it’s been for Kris. He’s a young guy, but he’s also played a lot in the league. He’s played a lot for our team and he’s at that point where he’s that type of player for our younger players.

On Mark Letestu’s camp so far and his outlook for the season:
He’s certainly established with 14 goals and different usage both as a second-line center and a power-play guy and use in that regard as an effective player in the NHL. He’s a smart player. When you talk about healthy Pittsburgh Penguins, you’ve got to use (Crosby), (Malkin) and (Staal) and he hasn’t unplanted one of them as a center. There’s competition for playing the fourth-line center and that’s not necessarily Mark’s strong suit as a fourth-line center type of guy. He would have to be still in competition for ice time and where he would be fitting in on our team. There are other players in that spot. Dustin Jeffrey’s in that spot. Craig Adams has been the fourth-line center a lot the last two years. Joe Vitale is in that spot and Richard Park is in that mix as well. It is a competition. Fourteen goals is a lot of goals. That’s quite a significant number for an NHL guy.

On how the new players have been so far:
It’s a work in progress it the best way to say it. To see Paul Martin say his comfort level this year versus last year is very significant. You can put that on some of the new guys. They’re starting to understand some of the terminology and the part of the game that they understand is different. When we say one word, it may not click with them as something they’ve done their whole life with different teams. Some of it’s getting acquainted and getting to know where to go. It’s not going to be perfect right now and so they’re going to continue to try to get into those game situations. It will still be a work in progress even when we get into those regular-season games.

On Joe Vitale:
There’s a little bit of trust in Joe’s game and his experience with us and the games that he played with us last season. That’s something you have to earn, it’s not just given out. Joe’s competing in that spot. He was put in that spot last year, and he’s been put in that spot in camp and he’s been performing well. In that spot, you need to be a real trustworthy player. You need to be a player that’s counted on in short minutes, in difficult situations hopping off the bench to be able to go out and execute a pass in the neutral zone. Making one turnover in your one shift could be the difference between trust and no trust. He’s working in that spot. He showed that last year and that’s the spot he’s probably going to play for our team if he can be there. I need to trust the person to be a responsible good player as a fourth-line guy, and he’s certainly having a good camp and filling that spot and he’ll get a couple of chances this weekend. Whether you’re right-handed, left-handed, old, young, you don’t get trust without playing the right way and doing the right things and Joe’s out there doing that.

Shorthanded goal: Kaitlin Zurawsky

12:30 PM:
Pens coach Bylsma said Brent Johnson is planning on playing the whole game tonight. Also, he was kind enough to provide a whole bunch of injury updates:

"(Robert) Bortuzzo is rehabbing right now. He will soon get back on the ice just in a very limited rehab way and working towards practice.

"Jason Williams is rehabbing his injury right now and won't be on the ice.

"Alex Picard practiced (Thursday) in the morning and is also there (on the ice) right now, so he'll also return to a full practice for Saturday."

"(Brooks Orpik) has been skating and ramping up the last few days. i think he's ready to move to the next step, which is getting on the ice for a full practice on Saturday. So we'll see about that. But he's been ramping his rehab up and skating on the ice."

"(Dustin) Jeffrey is full go. He is on the ice with contact now. He's going in that regard.

"Nick Petersen is off the ice, has not returned to the ice and he has some concussion symptoms. That is what he's dealing with."

12:23 PM:
Pics of the non-game group on the ice...

Lineys Crosby and Kunitz (left); the group (right)

Picard standing (left) and skating (right)

Jeffrey (left)...switching jerseys with Picard (right)

12:07 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Steve Sullivan

On if he is excited to play in his first exhibition with the Pens:
Yeah, absolutely, I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s just the kind of game situation to implement all the systems that I’ve been taught in camp and trying to get some chemistry with some teammates. I’m happy this day’s coming.

On playing against the Blackhawks:
Yeah, it’s one of my former teams. It’s been a while since I’ve been there. There aren’t too many familiar face left in that organization, but it’s going to be a familiar place so it’s going to be a bit easier for me.

Zbynek Michalek

On starting to play against the bigger names in the league:
It’s good. Especially the first few games, it was kind of a mixed lineup and a lot of young guys. It’s good to play against the best and get ready for the season. I think today’s going to be a great chance. Chicago has a great lineup. It’s going to be a good test for everybody to try and see how everybody is feeling going into the season.

On how he feels about the makeup of the team so far:
I think it’s good. We’ve got a lot of the same faces from last season. It’s a lot easier when you have that. It seems like the transition was easy and they’re good guys. And Sullivan this is his first game because of injury so we’ll try to help him out as much as we can. I’m sure he’s been in the league for so many years so he’s going to be fine.

On Joseph Morrow and Brian Strait:
They’ve both been impressive. I had a chance to play with Strait against Minnesota and I think he played well. He scored a goal and the whole game he played well. He’s really good defensively. Joe looks like he’s been playing in the league for ten years. He’s such a good skater and makes plays with the puck and he’s such a good player. They’re both really good players.

Power-play goal: Kaitlin Zurawsky

11:38 AM:
I forgot how small the non-game group is now with all of the roster cuts that have happened since the beginning of training camp. There's just seven guys out there: Sidney Crosby, Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Kunitz, Richard Park, Alexandre Picard, Ben Lovejoy and Matt Niskanen. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar is running the skate.

Good to see Picard practicing, as he hasn't been on the ice lately:

10:53 AM:
Pics of the game group at work...

Duper sharing a laugh with coach Reirden (left); Sullivan is playing tonight (right)

Duper is all over the place -- now he's giving Sully a hard time...

Paulie Martin had just given Tanger a friendly whack on the shinpad before I took the photo on the left; Geno trying to deke through MacIntyre's legs (right)

Neal (left); TK practicing his shot like always (right)

Group gathers (left); goalies-only convo (right)

Now it's Letang getting jostled by his teammates, first Engelland (left) and then Duper again!!! (right)

10:49 AM:
Pens working on special teams on both ends of the ice.

First PP unit: Kennedy and Neal down low, Sullivan and Malkin on the half walls and Letang manning the center point.

Second PP unit: Cooke and Staal down low, Letestu and Morrow on the half walls and Martin manning the center point.

10:45 AM:
Pens captain Sidney Crosby is on the bench in his full gear watching the game group skate, still wearing his white helmet signifying no contact. He's scheduled to go with the non-game group at 11:15 a.m.

10:35 AM:
Everyone listed on tonight's roster is at practice.
Here are the line combos the Pens are skating in:


10:14 AM:
Looks like practice is actually at 10:30 a.m., as the first Penguin - Deryk Engelland - just got on the ice.

9:41 AM:
Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik was on the ice working with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar prior to the team's practice.

Also, the cardboard Brooks Orpik (click here for the full story behind that) was watching the real Brooks Orpik practice from the runway. How freaky is that?!

9:00 AM:
Welcome everyone! We're at CONSOL Energy Center waiting for today's game group to take the ice for a 10 a.m. practice. After the non-game group skates at 11:15 a.m., we're boarding a plane for the Windy City as the Pens are taking on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at 8:30 p.m. The Pens will be continuing their quest to finish the preseason without a loss for just the second time in team history, as they're a perfect 4-0 so far.

There's going to be a lot of elite talent on the United Center ice this evening, as both teams are dressing a lot of their big guns. The Hawks are dressing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (in addition to former Pen Daniel Carcillo), while the Pens are bringing Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, James Neal, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.

In addition, Pittsburgh's Steve Sullivan is lacing 'em up for his first game of the preseason. It'll be good to see him out there in the black and gold for the first time – against his former team, nonetheless. Sully played some of his best years with Chicago from 1999-2004 – he was a four-time 20-goal scorer with the Blackhawks, including the 2000-01 campaign when he established career highs in goals (34) and points (75).

Here are the full rosters.


9 Pascal Dupuis
10 Mark Letestu
11 Jordan Staal
18 James Neal
24 Matt Cooke
26 Steve Sullivan
27 Craig Adams
33 Steve MacIntyre
45 Arron Asham
46 Joe Vitale
48 Tyler Kennedy
71 Evgeni Malkin

4 Zbynek Michalek
5 Deryk Engelland
7 Paul Martin
37 Brian Strait
58 Kris Letang
70 Joseph Morrow

1 Brent Johnson
29 Marc-Andre Fleury


13 Daniel Carcillo
15 Andrew Brunette
16 Marcus Kruger
19 Jonathan Toews
22 Jamal Mayers
29 Bryan Bickell
37 Brandon Pirri
43 Brandon Saad
67 Michael Frolik
81 Marian Hossa
85 Rostislav Olesz
88 Patrick Kane

2 Duncan Keith
4 Niklas Hjalmarsson
5 Steve Montador
6 Sean O'Donnell
7 Brent Seabrook
8 Nick Leddy

30 Ray Emery
53 Alexander Salak

NOTE: This is the second meeting of the preseason between these two teams, with Pittsburgh earning a 4-1 victory here at CONSOL on Sept. 22. The Pens started off slow, but scored four third-period goals to earn the win – including a phenomenal individual effort by Jordan Staal with just 8.5 seconds left to cap the victory. Let's relive it, shall we?

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