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Penguins Roundup: New Year's Day Practice

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Forward Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang were absent from the Penguins’ New Year’s Day practice at CONSOL Energy Center.

“’Geno’ was off for personal reasons and Letang had a maintenance day,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “With Letang, two nights ago he was sort of battling a little bit of an injury, but I don’t expect it to be anything that’s going to linger on.”

Forward Steve Downie, who has missed the last six games after being diagnosed with the mumps, participated in his second straight day of team practice. Johnston said he’s a possibility to play Friday vs. Tampa Bay.

“The good thing today is that ‘Downs’ skated,” Johnston said. “And it looks like he’ll be close to being able to play tomorrow night, which would be great for us to get some more forward depth in our lineup. So that’s going to be really important as we head forward.”

Defensemen Paul Martin and Olli Maatta and forward Zach Sill skated with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice.

Martin, who has missed the last six games, practiced with the team for the first time on Tuesday before going back to skating on his own yesterday and today.

“Martin will be, hopefully, cleared in the next day or two to work out full-time with us,” Johnston said. “He’s sort of been in and out a little bit. Until he gets full time, he won’t be back in the lineup.”

The team started practice with a drill where the players had to use their non-dominant hands. Right-handed shooters used left-handed sticks, and vice versa. There was plenty of hooting and hollering during the exercise. The Penguins ended up skating for about a half hour total in what looked to be a loose but focused session.

“It’s New Year’s Day and tried to get them to have a little bit of fun out there on the ice to start practice,” Johnston said. “I wanted to have a good skate. Usually on a day like that, when you play three games in four nights, one is you don’t want to tax them too much so that their energy goes down because the energy is everything in three in four nights. We have a bit of a break next week to get some quality practices in.

“But today, get a little bit of fun to begin with then two or three focus drills, get their feet moving, get some focus to it. And then tomorrow, we’ll probably have an optional skate in the morning.”

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS

With the Penguins having a practice on New Year’s Day for the first time in a few years, we figured we’d take advantage of the holiday and ask a few players their resolutions.

- Thomas Greiss suggested one for fellow goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. “It should be stop cheating at Socom,” Greiss said.

“Stop cheating? Who’s cheating?” Fleury asked innocently.

“You and ‘Tanger’ (Kris Letang)!” Greiss said. “You always use the cheat codes.”

Despite the accusation, Fleury maintained his innocence. "I don't cheat," he maintained.

- Fleury came up with one for himself. “My New Year’s resolution – not that I do it much or often – but stop looking at my phone or texting when driving,” he said.

- Brandon Sutter had the same one. “I want to focus on not texting or looking at my phone when driving,” he said. “If I’m driving when I get a text, I just want to completely ignore that, so that’s my resolution.”

- On the flip side, Jayson Megna wants to use his phone more to stay in touch with his family and friends. “My New Year’s resolution is to just be better with my phone,” he said. “Just be returning phone calls and text messages in a timely manner. I need to get better at that. I’m pretty bad right now. I’ve got probably 20 voicemails on my phone that I need to listen to.”

- Beau Bennett, who’s had unfortunate luck with injuries since turning pro, said his biggest goal for the new year is playing 10 games in a row. “I just want to play hockey. That’s it.”

- Nick Spaling’s was “Learn the guitar.” He’s had one for five years that’s just been sitting in his house, and while sometimes he’ll pick it up and pretend to play it, “this is my year to really learn it.”

- And finally, Rob Klinkhammer said he needs to “clean my cat’s litter box more."

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