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Quick Hits: Schedule Quirks

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes will kick off the Eastern Conference Finals Monday at Mellon Arena, but after that initial contest the series takes an odd turn in the schedule.

Rather than the normal routine of playing a game every other day, the Penguins and Hurricanes will have three two-day breaks - occurring between Game 1 and 2, Game 3 and 4, and lastly Game 4 and 5. That means this could end up as a 16-day series if all seven games are necessary to play.

The schedule can be viewed as a blessing or a curse as the extra days off between games could provide more rest for hurting players, but could also hurt a team’s momentum.

“If anything you welcome that, especially later in the playoffs,” center Sidney Crosby said. “You have guys banged up and things like that. It’s good to get those extra days. You might get a day off in there and you get a practice in before the game. It’s a different situation but there are certain things about it that you can use to your advantage.”

Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma is taking the one-day-at-a-time approach with the schedule. He understands there are advantages and disadvantages to having extra days off.

“There’s so many different scenarios that you encounter in hockey,” Bylsma said. “Sometimes we talk about having too much rest or not enough rest. There’s never been a definitive answer. The things that are out of your control like days off or how many games you play in how many days, are things you try to not focus on. There’s too many things out there that are difficult to deal with on the ice. We’ll worry about that first game and move on to Game 2.”

Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar suited up for his team’s critical 6-2 Game 7 victory in Washington last Wednesday just five days after suffering a knee-to-knee hit. While he played through the pain in the most important game of Pittsburgh’s season, there was no definitive answer as to if he’ll be in the lineup for Game 1 of the conference finals on Monday.

“We’ve monitored him over the last two days,” Bylsma said. “The general expectation of what was going to happen is happening. In this situation there could be setbacks, it could move backwards but right now everything is moving forwards. That means he’s getting better. It’s something we look at each day and re-schedule what we think is going to happen the next day. Right now things are progressing. He’s getting his treatment. We’ll see (Saturday) when we come to the rink what’s in store for him and how he’s doing.”

Sidney Crosby was asked if he’s thought about a possible re-match with the Detroit Red Wings in this year’s Stanley Cup Final.

To which Crosby’s replied, “No.”

Enough said.

Approximately 2,000 tickets for the first two home games of the Eastern Conference Finals went on sale Friday at 10 a.m. Devoted Penguins fans lined up outside of Mellon Arena to purchase the tickets. As expected, the allotment sold out quickly, in less than hour.

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