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Pre-Game Prospect Talk with Coach Hynes

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
OSHAWA, ONT. – The Pittsburgh Penguins prospects have finished their practice, ate lunch and are now resting up for their 7 p.m. matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top prospects.

The Penguins are looking to rebound from their first game of the 2011 rookie tournament at the General Motors Centre Saturday afternoon, where they were blanked by the Ottawa Senators prospects, 4-0.

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Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who’s behind the bench for the Penguins this weekend, said he’s looking for his team to work more as a group tonight, adding that they need to execute better and be more consistent.

He especially wants them to be stronger with the puck – primarily coming through the neutral zone – and connecting on passes.

Hynes also mentioned he wants his team to capitalize on rebounds, something that didn’t happen enough on Saturday.

“I thought we created some chances, but we definitely have to create more,” he said. “One of the things to go along with that offensively is speed coming thtough the neutral zone. But then when we get in our scoring chance areas, we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for pucks and we have better positioning in and around the net.

“We have a good group of forwards that work hard and that are talented. But there’s not one guy we’re looking to to say hey, he has to score for us to win. We need to do it by committee.”

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But one aspect of Saturday’s game that Hynes did like was the physicality, as the Penguins played hard, threw the body around and even had two players engage in fisticuffs (defenseman Alex Grant and forward Jessey Astles).

“I thought Astles and Grant got into fights I think for the right reasons,” Hynes said. “We’re going to look for a little bit more of that tonight. We have Zach Sill and Robert Bortuzzo in the lineup. That’s something we want to have as part of our culture and identity as Penguins, that we’re a hard and physical team and we can stand up for ourselves if we need to.”

Here are a couple other pre-game tidbits from Hynes:

Hynes said that goaltender Maxime Lagace, who is here on an amateur tryout contract, will start in net.

Lagace, a 6-foot-2, 177-pound netminder from Saint-Augustin, Quebec, went 8-4-0 in 18 appearances for Prince Edward Island of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) last season.

“He’s young, he’s athletic and he’s structurally sound,” Hynes said of the 18-year-old goalie. “I think when you see him on the ice, he’s a bigger kid that plays big. He doesn't use his athleticism to make saves. He’s athletic with good reactions, but his position is sound.”

The four players scratched for Saturday’s game – Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Zach Sill and Keven Veilleux – will be in the lineup tonight.

Hynes expects a lot from Despres, the Penguins’ first-round pick (30th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

“Simon’s very talented,” Hynes said of the 6-foot-4, 225-pound blueliner. “He’s a great skater. I think you’re going to see he’s going to be able to move well on both sides of the puck. Over the past couple of years, he knows how we want to play. So we’re looking forward to him being a good, puck-moving defenseman and be able to be a good shutdown guy for us. He’s going to be playing some good minutes and some hard minutes for us.”

Hynes said to expect physical toughness and an offensive element from the well-built Veilleux, a 6-foot-5, 221-pound power forward.

“I think you’ll see he’s physical, he’s hard, he can fight,” Hynes said. “He goes to the net hard, he’s a good guy on the power play and on the half wall.”
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