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Penguins-Senators Game Day (Game 5)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy, who is day-to-day with a lower body injury, did not skate with him teammates at their Thursday morning skate. When asked Bylsma didn't say that Kennedy was out. But he did say that Ruslan Fedotenko would take his place in the lineup. See 10:39 AM entry for more details.

Also, Senators head coach Cory Clouston said that Ottawa will start Pascal Leclaire in goal for Ottawa in Game 5 instead of Brian Elliott. See 12:12 PM entry for more details.

1:45 PM:
Sounds heard around the Senators room:

Cory Clouston

On the mindset of the Senators going into tonight’s game:

We know that we have a tough road ahead of us, but we’re just taking it one game at a time.  We played well in this building before, and we know that we have a few areas that we need to improve on. There is still some confidence in the room. We’re not looking at anything other than tonight’s game.

On Ottawa’s starting goalie and lineup changes:

Pascal (Leclaire) will play. (Shean) Donovan will be in, and (Jonathan) Cheechoo will be out. (Ryan) Shannon will be out.

On how uncharacteristic Game 4 was for the team and if he expects a game more like Game 2 tonight:
I don’t know if you want to say uncharacteristic. I think toward the end of the game in the last minute-and-a-half, there were about seven or eight penalties. To me, that was just emotion that had been built up throughout the game. There was some frustration. We don’t want to see that. We want to play more like Game 1 or 2, so that gives us more confidence. We’ve played well in this building in the series.

On if Ruslan Fedotenko replacing Tyler Kennedy will cause the Senators to do anything different defensively:
We need to make adjustments, but it’s not because Fedotenko is in and Kennedy is out. It is because we have to make sure that we play better defensively. 

On his decision to replace Brian Elliott with Pascal Leclaire in goal:
We feel that obviously Brian struggled. People have brought up (Mike) Brodeur who played in the American league for us and played well for us earlier, but people have to do their homework. He was in and out of the lineup with injuries for the last month and a half. Brodeur wasn’t even that healthy. He has had hip, back and groin problems for the last month and a half. I know that he played very well for us earlier, but he’s not going to play tonight.

On if the lines set up during practice are close to the lines that will be in the game tonight:


On the difference between the way that the team has played at home versus on the road:

I think that in three of the four games, there has been real tight checking. In Game 3, the shots were 23-21 I think, and chances were basically dead even around nine or 10 chances.  When you give up a lead like we gave up, you have a tendency to get off your game plan, which we did. When you’re down 4-0, you start to force things and do too much. Every time that we caught ourselves back to within a couple of goals, we made a mistake pressing too hard. In three of the four games, I like how our team has played. In Game 3, we played hard, and we played well. It was a close game. We didn’t give up a whole lot. That’s basically what our goal was all year. That wasn’t any different in Game 3.

On what the team can do to minimize the damage caused by Sidney Crosby:

It’s not necessarily defensively. To me, most of their offense was created in their defensive zone – in our offensive zone. We have turned the puck over way too often. We haven’t managed the puck properly. We have to do a better job of our backchecking roots and our backchecking position. If we can do that, that’s going to eliminate a lot of the offense that they have generated. I think that they scored eight of their 11 goals off the rush. To me, that all starts in our offensive zone. It’s not our D zone coverage that has been letting us down. It is the turnovers and allowing them to attack with too much speed and too many options. To me, it all starts in our offensive zone.

1:44 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma

On scoring goals off the rush against Ottawa:

I expect a tighter game tonight. I expect them to play very well defensively. I expect more of a game like Game 2 in this building. When you look back at our rushes, sometimes you play a rush game or a chance game with another team. You exchange rushes. Our rushes came out of D zone coverage, and they came out of good structure. I’m not a big fan of seeing scoring chances out of the rush. That’s how you get the majority of your chances, but when you look at that game, I was pleased that our rush chances came from going back for pucks and coming out of D zone coverage well as a group. That’s how we generated those chances. It’s better than a chance-for-chance game, but I still think that we’re looking for more offensive zone time tonight from our team.

On the statuses of Jordan Leopold and Tyler Kennedy and how Ruslan Fedotenko can contribute tonight:

Jordan (Leopold) is day-to-day still, and TK (Tyler Kennedy) did not practice with us. He is day-to-day, as well. Ruslan (Fedotenko) will go on the line with (Jordan) Staal. I see him being very similar to TK with a little more physical presence, but he’s also a shooter and a guy who is going to be responsible defensively and a guy who can fight in the offensive zone. Last year, Fedotenko did play on a line with Staal for nine games and was effective on that unit, as well. We’ll look for more of the same in that situation much like TK provides.

On the experience of closing teams out during the postseason:

I think that Ottawa has tried to pound and go after our D in the forecheck. I expect them to play a little more structured tonight and play very well defensively and limit us through the neutral zone. I do expect their best defensive game tonight. In terms of experience, I think that most situations are different from previous ones. We’ve won some games in the past. We’ve had to close some teams out, and we have not. I think that we’re at a point in a series where we’ve had three wins, and we’re coming back home and having a chance to close them out. For our mindset, it’s racing to four wins, and it’s about establishing our game. We believe that they are going to come out very well tonight and play desperate. They know that this is a must-win. This is going to be a hard-fought game, and we need to earn it and get to our game at the forecheck and in the offensive zone and establish that. The longer that we can do that and the quicker that we can do that, then the better it is for our team.

On the success of NHL teams who have promoted their AHL coaches in the past:
Having coached against Bruce Brodeau in the minors, I know that he is a good coach. Having coached with Todd Richards, he is a very good coach and student of the game – dealing with people practice-wise and systems-wise and adjustment-wise, he is a very good coach. When they got hired, they were deserving coaches. They came up and had success and did good jobs. I’m not surprised at all. Having coached against them and having learned from some of these coaches and having taken things from some of these coaches and talking with them and coaching against them, you know that they are good hockey coaches. It’s not just limited to the 30 who are up here in the National Hockey League right now. I think that coaching is becoming more and more of a craft. People are learning it and learning from different people. There are a lot of seminars. A lot of these coaches, for five or six years, have tried to make themselves learn the game, so I’m not surprised to see that they made themselves an opportunity by what they have done.

On Kris Letang playing better in the playoffs:
I’m going to expect more of it next year from him by the way that he has played through the first four games. We had a good understanding that they were going to come and try to establish a forecheck on us. We have heard from different sources throughout the year that teams thought that they could get to us on the forecheck. Not just Kris, but our guys have gone back and knew that they were coming and took hits and went back again and made plays. I think that it’s a lot of guys back there, but Kris Letang in particular. He has set the tone a little bit for us in the last few games with the hit in his first shift against (Anton) Volchenkov in Game 2 at the red line and the collision with (Mike) Fisher in Game 4. I think that was his first shift and the second shift of the game in the corner down there. He also takes hits and penalties and stands right there and makes plays without being phased by it. I think that has been a big factor for our team, and Kris has probably been the best in that regard. We’ll remember the standard that he is setting.

On if Letang performs better when he plays physical:
I think that we talked about him being a good defender and being a tough guy to play against. We saw that a few times against pretty skilled players, and he is better. He’s more focused and charged on being in the game and playing defensively and taking those hits. We are seeing him at his best.

Sidney Crosby

On facing Ottawa tonight:
I think that both teams are trying to be physical, and both have seen good results from that throughout the series, especially in the first two games. Playoff hockey adds that element of physicality, so I think that was a point that both teams tried to make. I don’t see that going away. We want to be physical. They want to be physical. That’s not the entire game, but that’s part of it. I’m sure that both teams want to keep that trait for sure.

On Pittsburgh’s defense being more physical than most people might have originally thought:
You look at the guys there, and you look at Orps (Brooks Orpik). He has that presence of being a real physical player, but are guys being really mean and going out there and looking for it? Probably not. I think that at the same time, though, they have shown a lot of guts and going back for pucks and being able to take hits and playing well in their positions. They definitely make hits when they’re there to be made, but they aren’t necessarily looking for it. They’re probably not the biggest, meanest group, but they play with a lot of guts, and that’s what you need at this time of the year.

On the success of Pittsburgh’s power play in the postseason:
I can’t even explain that to be honest. It’s kind of weird to see that, but at the same time, I think that you see teams knowing that games are so close and things are so tight. They really look at those power plays as opportunities. They don’t go out there and just skate around for two minutes and hope. They really try to make the most of it. You see guys pretty desperate and battling for pucks in front. Those goals aren’t any different from the ones that you mostly see, but they’re important ones. You see guys being pretty desperate with those opportunities.

On what kind of effort he expects from Ottawa tonight:

Their best – when you’re in that position, you have no choice but to be desperate. It’s fairly easy to have that desperation. That’s something that, for us, we have to be aware of that and make sure that our desperation level is there and that we have the mindset of finishing things off here.

On scoring goals off the rush against Ottawa:

In the first two games, there were barely any chances for either team off the rush. That’s just kind of the way hockey goes sometimes. There is no real explanation for it. It’s just the way that it ends up. I think that the way the first two games were played was probably a pretty good idea of what type of hockey it is going to be. Especially tonight, that is what we expect. We expect things to be really tight. For ourselves, we want to make sure that we are smart defensively, as well. In the last game, we won. We played a good game, but you still don’t want to give up four goals. That’s the main thing. We were happy to score seven, but we don’t want to give up four. We still feel like we can do a little bit better, too. 

On if he is surprised that all of the series in the Eastern Conference are at 3-1:

I don’t think that you can ever really predict anything. The series are not over. They’re 3-1. I’m sure that there are a lot of 3-1s that don’t always end in 5s. That’s the way that it is now, but I’d say that it’s pretty fair to say that those games are close, and no one is running away with anything. That’s the way that the games end up. Somebody has to win, but they have been really close games and intense and everything that you expect out of the playoffs.

On playing Game 5 at home versus on the road:
I approach every game the same way in the playoffs no matter where it is. I think that you have to be desperate in every game and realize that nobody wants to go and play a game and not win it. I don’t think that anybody goes into the game in that mindset. Our focus is to win this game. Theirs is to win. The fact is that they don’t have any room to lose. That allows them to be more desperate, and we have to make sure that we can be at the same level. 

Jordan Staal

On facing Ottawa tonight:
They’re going to come out hard and desperate, and we have to match that intensity and try to take over the game as best we can. I think that last year we didn’t really do it the right way. I don’t know if it’s the right way, but we didn’t do it quickly. Hopefully, we can get it done soon.

On if the first 20 minutes of the game being the key to getting the win:
The first start is always big. You don’t want to give them any life or any confidence. It’s that start that can kind of give it to them. It’s really the whole game, though. It’s playing our style in the whole game, and we’ll go from there.  

On being nominated for the Selke Trophy:
It’s an honor. I was really surprised and really just excited about it. It’s awesome being recognized and just to be named as one of the league players is a pretty special feeling. I’m really happy about it.

On if he feels like he is carving out a name for himself in the league:
I’m feeling comfortable where I am right now. It’s always nice to be on the same team as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. I’m just trying to find a good role to play on this team and do my thing.
On Bylsma:
On the ice he can be pretty outgoing at times and really get out there and do some fun stuff. You usually have guys in the room who do that but not your coach. It’s always nice to have that loose atmosphere. When it comes down to business he can get really driven and be hard on the guys.
On Bylsma’s communication skills:
He is a good communicator and there are a lot of one-on-ones and talking. If you ever have a problem as a player you can go and talk with him.
On getting recognized nationally:
It is nice. There is no question that I am really excited to be up for the Selke Trophy. It’s an amazing feeling. Hopefully I can keep proving that.

Maxime Talbot

On how important it is to win the game tonight and finish off the series:

Last year, we put ourselves in a little bit of trouble by losing those two games where we had a chance to finish the series. We definitely don’t want to do that this year. I feel that we are more experienced. We know how important this game is. They know it, too, because their season is on the line, and they’re definitely going to come in and work.

On if the series has been focused on Sidney Crosby’s accomplishments:

He has definitely led the series. He has been our leader. It’s not just in points. He has 11 points, which is a record in his first four games I think, but he is way more than that when you look at everything. Like most of us, he just put his level a little bit higher in the playoffs by doing all of the little details. It shows.

Matt Cooke

On eliminating the Senators:
We were in this position last year a few times and we didn’t recognize how desperate the other team was going to be. They are fighting for their playoff lives. Their sole focus is to win tonight and not worry about anything else. I think that we need to get to our level early and push them to play at our pace for 60 minutes.
On the effort expected from Ottawa:
They are going to be desperate. They are going to give everything they have and I wouldn’t be surprised to see their best game of the series tonight.
On having a strong start:
It’s always nice to score the first goal and to have a strong first period. We know it’s not the end all. I think that for the most part we want to take our game to the next level.

Big assist to Caitlin Kasunich for carrying us today.

12:38 PM:

Pascal Leclaire gets the surprise start in goal for Game 5

Goalie Brian Elliott (right) will not be in net tonight for Ottawa.

12:12 PM:
Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston announced two lineup changes for the Senators in Game 5, one of which is a major change. The Senators will start goaltender Pascal Leclaire in net instead of Brian Elliott.

Elliott had started the first four games of the series but was yanked in favor of Leclaire early in the second period of Game 4 after allowing four goals on 19 shots.

Clouston also announced that Shean Donovan will play instead of Jonathan Cheechoo.

10:50 AM:

Alexei Ponikarovsky (left); Evgeni Malkin (right)

Sidney Crosby and asst. coach Tony Granato (left); Chris Kunitz (right)

Deryk Engelland (left); Ben Lovejoy (right)

10:39 AM:
The Penguins have begun their morning skate and Tyler Kennedy is not with them. Kennedy left the team's 7-4 Game 4 victory in Ottawa in the first period and did not return. Head coach Dan Bylsma listed him as day-to-day with a lower body injury. It looks like Ruslan Fedotenko, who was scratched in Games 2-4, will replace Kennedy on the third line.

The forward combinations looked like this:

10:29 AM:
The Penguins are making their way to the ice for their Thursday morning skate. The team will faceoff against the Ottawa Senators tonight in Game 5 of the quarterfinals at Mellon Arena with a chance to close out the series. Since 1991, the Penguins are 10-4 when they have a chance to eliminate an opponent at home.
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