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Penguins Report: (Preseason) Game Day vs. Detroit

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Tonight's rosters for both teams (10:16 AM)
  • Crosby, Jeffrey, Sullivan, Michalek practicing with non-game group (11:35 AM).
  • Line combos at Pens morning skate (10:33 AM)
  • Game group practices PP (10:43 AM)
  • Malkin, Neal, Letang and Fleury are excited for tonight (1:40 PM)
  • Bylsma talks strategy, Crosby, Thiessen and Detroit (12:39 PM)
  • Morning skate evidence (11:01 AM)
  • Non-game group pics (12:40 PM)
  • Final batch of pics (5:22 PM)
  • The lowdown on tonight's game (10:00 AM)

5:22 PM:
The Red Wings just arrived at CONSOL. We're less than two hours to game time. The rink smells of popcorn and the game-day hustle and bustle is taking place everywhere. I. Can't. Wait.

Here's one last batch of pics before I wrap this up...

Red Wings arrive; Russian sniper Pavel Datsyuk is on the far right in the pic on the left

2:21 PM:
Steve Mears was kind enough to lend us his talents for today's edition of Pens Insider. Always good stuff from Mearsy...

1:40 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room (preseason game edition!!!)

Evgeni Malkin

On how he feels after the first 4-5 days of camp:
My knee is pretty good because I had a great summer and worked hard. My knee is not sore or nothing bad.

On if he has been in any situations during practice where he felt it more than he did in the past:
No, because my leg feels pretty strong, I’ve been skating at I think the same pace as before.

On how have things changed for him this training camp as opposed to others:
I’ve used a personal program. My coach is Mike Kadar and I work with him. Nothing changed a lot. It’s just a little bit more pressure to my knee and more practice for my knee. Nothing else changed.

On if the mental side has changed because of his injury:
I think no. I’m still going to play my same game. Nothing changed. I’m going to go with the same speed and try to score goals. Nothing’s changed in my mentality.

On if he has set any personal goals for himself in terms of having a better season:
I hope it’s a better season because I had a great summer and a little bit more rest. Nothing changed my game. Maybe just more concentration and playing my game. I don’t know, it’s hard to say.

On if he has any goals in terms of numbers:
Yeah, of course. I try to score every game.

On if he would like to win another scoring title:
I’ll try.

On if he’s excited to play against another team instead of scrimmaging with each other:
Yeah, because we’re playing at home. I have not played in a long time here, and of course I’m excited because I hope fans come and that we have a great game tonight.

James Neal

On the first pre-season game:
It’s the first Penguins training camp, so it’s exciting. It’s good to get going here and get the first pre-season game out of the way.

On how the transition to Pittsburgh has been:
It’s been good. It was a bit of a whirlwind, everything happened so fast. But it’s good to be settled in and just focus on hockey.

On what type of player Malkin is:
He’s so highly skilled. Whenever he has the puck, you got to be ready because it’s coming at any time. He’s a guy that brings a lot of guys to him with the way he moves and the way he skates, so he sucks a lot of guys over and that gives you a lot of room to open up.

On the lines that he has been playing:
It’s intensely deep up front, so anytime I get to play with highly skilled players like Sidney (Crosby) and ‘Geno,’ it’s fun. Hopefully we can get off to a good start because you never know who’ll you’ll be playing with come the start of the season.

Kris Letang

On how he feels about going into the first pre-season game:
It’s quick, but we had the chance to have regular scrimmages and the Black and Gold Game, so everybody got a bit of good timing back. It will be a real good first test and a chance for the players.

On what it is going to feel like playing again:
When you don’t play for a long time like this, it’s about timing on the ice and where the players are standing. Your vision, your timing – everything needs to be there and ready for the season.

On the younger players:
It’s a training camp; everybody wants to make an impression. It’s important to go out there and play and not think too much.

On the game being against Detroit tonight:
They’re a great team every year. It’s a great organization, so it’s always fun to play against them.

On being considered one of the “older guys” at camp:
No, I don’t think so. I’m one of the youngest here. There’s new guys and guys who have been here 5, 6 years. I’m here to help and it’s fun playing with all these guys and it’s going to be a good time.

On working on and improving the power play:
It’s a new setup; we’ve got new players. I think playing tonight will work on everything we talked about. There are a lot of players to work on the penalty kill. There are some things that we would love to change and some things we have to work on.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On how it feel finally getting into a game:
It’s fun just getting back into it, playing against other guys. Getting hit and stuff, it doesn’t matter too much. I think we’ve got a good lineup for our team.

On whether there is added motivation because the game is against Detroit:
I think so; it’s always been fun games every time we play them. We have a rivalry against them. It’s always a good challenge. There are good memories from beating them. It’s always a tough game to play.

On how he felt having a little more time off this summer than usual:
Especially near the end, I felt pretty long. I think it’s good for the body to rest up and have some down time, but I’m definitely glad to be back here and I’m looking forward to a good season.

Goal: Kaitlin Zurawsky

12:40 PM:
The non-game group on the ice...

Crosby skating hard around the circles

Jeffrey shooting on B. Johnson (left); Michalek back on the ice after a day off Tuesday (right)

Orpik (left); Crosby and Jeffrey (right)

12:39 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

Injury updates:
Brooks Orpik is continuing on the ice today in his rehab. He scrimmaged (Tuesday) for the first time. Dustin Jeffrey, much like Brooks had on day 3, had a built-in day off (Tuesday). He’ll be back on the ice today as well. Zbynek (Michalek) will be on the ice practicing today as well, Steve Sullivan will be on the ice practicing today as well. Boris Valabik skated now a second time and is progressing in rehabbing on the ice, but not with his teammates yet.

On what he’s looking for out of tonight’s exhibition game:
I think there’s certainly in games 1 and 2, tonight’s game and the game against Chicago, there will be opportunities for people to go out and show what they can, show where they fit, show what skills they have and can bring to our team. For a guy like Joe Morrow, it’s his first NHL exhibition game. Our second-rounder, Scott Harrington, will get that opportunity (Thursday). There are other players that are in a position to make a good impression with their first NHL exhibition game. So individually there are some people that have opportunities to show what they can do, some free agents – (Colin) McDonald will be playing tonight and he’s had a strong camp to date. He’s another individual who has a chance. Team-wise, for a lot of players, they’ve got a lot of things going through their heads systems-wise that we’ve gone through the first four days. Those details will hopefully show up in our game. But we know there’s going to be some mistakes in getting to our game and getting involved in that is a great way and a great test for even the veteran players coming back. Having said that, the other team is going to be wearing red tonight. We want to beat them every chance we can get. So we have some competition and we have a chance to get on the ice and compete in a real NHL game.

On what he looks for in Brad Thiessen having Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson:
Well, the plan for tonight’s game is for Marc-Andre to get two periods and for Brad to get one in the third period. But Brad has been an exceptional goalie in our organization for two seasons, one the American Hockey League goalie of the year. He’s knocking on the door and begging with his play to get in NHL games. That did not happen last year. This is a guy you got to want to see play some NHL games and get NHL experience. So every chance he gets to go on the ice and play in a game is his chance to show he can be a good goaltender at the NHL level as well. That’s something, frankly, where we need to see him in those situations and give him a chance to do that. It’s just one period tonight, but he’s been a very good goaltender down there and we’d love to see him get some games and chances in the net in the NHL. He gets that for a period tonight.

On if he has to taper his enthusiasm when it comes to Sidney Crosby and if the accidental contact he experiences worries him as a coach:
What is going on on the ice is per his rehab. So being in the hustle and bustle of practice and being in and among bodies is part of the rehab process. That’s not contact yet, but it is being in with players and moving amongst players and that’s part of what he’s doing for his rehab per the doctor’s instructions and on the ice. So he’s been doing that for the last five days. In terms of enthusiasm, I guess the thing that I’ve been watching is that it’s not easy out there. It’s difficult. It’s not a regular end-of-the-season practice. It’s fatiguing and every player is in that. They’re tired, and Sidney’s been going through that process with his teammates. Without contact, but still going through that process. It’s hard. It’s not easy. That’s been something we’ve all watched as he’s gone through the first four days of training camp. We’re going as scheduled and we’re excited to see that he gets out there every day, that’s for sure. But the doctor and the rehab he is on right now is going to be on a no timetable basis at this point in time. We’re just going to keep going and we’ll see him on the ice today.

On his relationship with Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and the similarities between both organization’s approaches:
Mike became a coach in Anaheim in 2002. I spent two years as a player with Mike Babcock as a coach. Then I spent a year in Cincinnati, the American Hockey League farm team of Anaheim, the year of the lockout. And Mike Babcock spent a fair amount of time down with us watching our team, watching the players in the minor leagues and helping us out a little bit as a coaching staff with Bradshaw and myself as assistants. That was my relationship with Mike back then. Since that time, it continues to this day. We speak a couple times a year, usually, about different things. In terms of our similarities as a system, I think Mike is a detailed coach. He establishes a great foundation for his team in terms of both the standard of which they play and the details of which they play. I learned a lot of that stuff under Mike as a player. So I think there are some similarities there. For many years, Detroit has been viewed as an elite organization from top to bottom, from their management to their styles to their personnel and to their players and the success they have on the ice. I’m not sure we’ve tried to do the exact model, but I think we’ve tried to establish that we’re an elite organization with hiring the right people and with what we try to do. That carries over from the top right down through to the bottom. And the success we’ve had on the ice the past five years is along the same lines as Detroit. There are some similarities throughout.

On if it’s difficult to be patient and cautiously optimistic with Crosby knowing the symptoms can return at any time:
I don’t have expectations. I haven’t made up a timetable in my mind hoping for something. Seeing him on the ice and seeing him participate is a good thing. We go basically day-to-day with that and there’s no timetable. We haven’t gotten to that point. We’re not to the point where they’re entertaining thinking about when the next step might be. It’s good to see him on the ice. I like to see it every day. I like to see it because I see Sidney Crosby out there, a gifted hockey player. He’s working hard and working with his teammates, so that’s a good thing. But in terms of optimism, I don’t have a future idea of what the next step is or when he might be ready to play or whenever that is. I’m not curbing that optimism for that because I don’t have an expectation.

On experimenting with new plays during exhibition games:
We’ve already done something in the Black and Gold Game that was like that. So the answer to that is yes. I fortunately went to the Research and Development camp in Toronto in August when the NHL was trying out new rules and different things in the game. As coaches there – Dave Tippett and myself – we tried more than a handful of things that could maybe be considered off the wall or crazy and that you might not want to try to pull off for the first time in an NHL game and get criticized for pulling your goalie in the second period – or whatever harebrained idea you might come up with. But from that experience, there is going to be at least five things that we will do differently for brief periods of time within games this year. Some of those things will show up for us in this training camp and with our exhibition games. It might be drastic, I guess, but it won’t be for full periods of games. It won’t be for the full 60 minutes. It might be for a period of hockey or the first timeout with that type of experimentation, to try some of those things and give the players the experience of what we’re talking about in a game situation before we start with Vancouver in game 1 and try to add points to the win column.

On if the helmet Crosby is wearing has additional padding or protection:
I’m not aware. I know there are different helmets and different things from different companies, but I’m not aware of what Sidney has or is doing differently.

11:48 AM:
We're back upstairs after coach Bylsma's media conference and the non-game group practice is underway. They're scheduled to go all the way till 1:30 p.m. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes is running the skate.

11:35 AM:
Pens coach Bylsma said Dustin Jeffrey, Steve Sullivan and Zbynek Michalek will be on the ice for practice today. They did not skate Tuesday.

He also said Sidney Crosby will be practicing this afternoon. Here's the updates from coach:

"Brooks Orpik is continuing on the ice today in his rehab. He scrimmaged (Tuesday) for the first time.

"Dustin Jeffrey, much like Brooks had on day 3, had a built-in day off (Tuesday). He’ll be back on the ice today as well.

"Zbynek (Michalek) will be on the ice practicing today as well, Steve Sullivan will be on the ice practicing today as well.

"Boris Valabik skated now a second time and is progressing in rehabbing on the ice, but not with his teammates yet."

NOTE: Bylsma also said that Marc-Andre Fleury will play the first two periods of tonight's game and Brad Thiessen will get the third.

11:01 AM:
Photographic proof of the guys at work...

Kunitz tries to solve 'Flower' while Thiessen watches (left); Malkin skates (right)

'Geno' chatting it up with coach Bylsma

Now it's Geno trying to score on 'Flower' (left); Tanger (right)

10:43 AM:
Pens practicing the power play on both ends of the ice.

First unit is: Malkin, Kunitz, Neal up top, Letang and Martin on the points.

Second unit is: Asham, McDonald, Dupuis up top, Niskanen and Letang on the points.

10:33 AM:
Here's how the line combinations shake down:


10:24 AM:
Most of the guys have trickled onto the ice by now. Brad Thiessen was the first player on back at 10:10 a.m.

10:16 AM:
Here are the lineups for tonight's game.

9 Pascal Dupuis
12 Richard Park
14 Chris Kunitz
18 James Neal
23 Ryan Craig
38 Colin McDonald
45 Arron Asham
46 Joe Vitale
56 Paul Thompson
57 Brian Gibbons
67 Geoff Walker
71 Evgeni Malkin

2 Matt Niskanen
7 Paul Martin
55 Philip Samuelsson
58 Kris Letang
59 Carl Sneep
70 Joseph Morrow

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brad Thiessen

Detroit Red Wings

11 Dan Cleary
15 Fabian Brunnstrom
17 Patrick Eaves
20 Drew Miller
21 Tomas Tatar
24 Pavel Datsyuk
26 Jiri Hudler
39 Jan Mursak
41 Chris Conner
42 Ryan Johnson
48 Corey Emmerton
96 Tomas Holmstrom

2 Brendan Smith
3 Garnet Exelby
22 Mike Commodore
23 Brad Stuart
32 Logan Pyett
55 Niklas Kronwall

Joey MacDonald
Jimmy Howard

10:00 AM:
It's finally a hockey night in Pittsburgh! The preseason officially kicks off today, as the Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. here at CONSOL Energy Center.

Last fall the Red Wings helped the Penguins christen a brand-new CONSOL Energy Center on Sept. 22, 2010 in the building’s first-ever hockey game. Pittsburgh skated away victorious, 5-1, behind a 3-0 advantage after the opening period that included the building’s first-ever goal off the blade of the Penguins' Mike Comrie just 1:21 minutes into the game. Ryan Craig scored twice for Pittsburgh, while Sidney Crosby and Brett Sterling each finished with two points (1G-1A).

Make sure to check all day for extensive coverage of the morning skate which starts at 10:30 a.m. and tonight's contest. Only the Penguins will be practicing here this morning; the Red Wings will arrive later this afternoon. And in addition to our live in-game blog, don't forget that the game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS.
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