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Pens Ready for Home Crowd's Support

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
There’s a reason why the Penguins battled until the bitter end of the regular season to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and it’s going to be apparent on Wednesday night’s Game 7 at CONSOL Energy Center.

In fact, the Penguins are counting on it.

“We have Game 7 in our building, and I know how it’s going to be in here right from the anthem with the towels and the energy in our building and our fans behind us,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.

“We’ve used that in the past to spur our team on with the energy that our fans provide and the atmosphere in the building. We have home-ice, we have the last change, we have our fans, the whiteout is going to be in the building, the towels are going to be going and that’s energy and momentum that we’re going to need to use in the game.”

“It’s 82 games of work to get that home-ice,” center Mark Letestu said. “The fans are a big reason for that. They’ve been behind us all year. They’re great. We pride ourselves playing in front of them and we feed off the energy they bring to the building to help us play.”

While the Penguins haven’t fared well in Game 7s played at home in the past – going 2-5 all-time in the seven contests played in Pittsburgh – this is a new year and a completely different team, one that’s ready to write their own history come Wednesday.

“We’d much rather be here,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “Coming out and playing here is the best. Right after the national anthem, which has been amazing the past couple times, the whiteout and the towels and the place going nuts, it’s a fun place to play. I think we’re excited that this game is a home game.”

Having that seventh man on the ice with them in a win-or-go-home scenario will certainly be invaluable come Wednesday.

But what’s also important for the Penguins is to put what’s happened in this rollercoaster of a series behind them. They’re treating this game as its own entity and they know they have to put forth their absolute best effort – something they feel they have not accomplished yet this postseason.

They’re ready to put their words into action.

“I think knowing what’s on the line and the type of the game we need to play, there’s nothing really to say anymore,” Letestu said. “I think tomorrow’s going to be our best. It’s what’s expected right now, and I think that’s what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

The Penguins prided themselves throughout the regular season on playing a certain way regardless of who was in their lineup.

It’s 82 games of work to get that home-ice. The fans are a big reason for that. They’ve been behind us all year. They’re great. We pride ourselves playing in front of them and we feed off the energy they bring to the building to help us play. - Center Mark Letestu
It’s the reason why they ended the 2010-11 campaign with the second-most points in franchise history despite playing a combined 119 games without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. It’s the reason why the Penguins were able to garner 49 wins, home-ice advantage in the postseason and battle for the Atlantic Division title until the bitter end.

That mindset did not change in the slightest entering their first-round series with Tampa Bay, and it’s certainly is not going to change for this resilient, never-say-die Penguins squad entering Game 7.

“We believe in what we’ve been doing,” forward Maxime Talbot said. “If we play our way, I like our chances.”

Defenseman Paul Martin agreed.

“There’s a reason that we’re this far, and everyone just has to make sure they’re doing their job,” he said. “We believe that if we have everyone going and doing their job, then we’ll be successful.”

Combine that with the forecasted whiteout in CONSOL Energy Center’s first-ever Game 7, and the Penguins can’t wait to get going.

“I know the fans are going to be a factor. I know home-ice is going to be a factor,” Bylsma added. “I can’t wait to step out for the start of that game tomorrow and get the fans behind us.”

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