Happy New Year hockey fans! The Penguins held an extremely optional practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township this afternoon.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Ian Cole and Scott Wilson were the only players on the ice with goaltending coach Mike Bales. Birthday boy Patric Hornqvist joined them for a few minutes in tennis shoes, no pads and compression shorts to take a couple of shots on Fleury, celebrating when he buried one five-hole.
Defenseman Trevor Daley hit the ice in his warmups, skating and shooting around with his son to ring in the new year.
Ian Cole left the game after the second period of the Penguins’ 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings last night and did not return. While he did practice this afternoon, his status for tomorrow night’s game against the New York Islanders is not confirmed.
“I’m going to talk to (head athletic trainer) Chris Stewart,” Cole said. “We’ll see tomorrow how everything is. Obviously I want to play every single game. I’m just trying to get back in there as soon as possible.”
On the goaltending front, head coach Mike Sullivan could not confirm Marc-Andre Fleury’s status for tomorrow.
“We’re going to see how he is,” Sullivan said. “I’ll talk to Mike Bales and Chris Stewart. We’ll go from there.”
Power Play Heating Up
The Penguins have scored on the man-advantage four times in four games since returning from the Christmas break. Sullivan offered some insight on the success.
“I think a lot of it has to do with our puck retrievals,” Sullivan said. “We hunt pucks when there are loose pucks and those 50-50 battles are critically important to having success. Usually teams are in vulnerable positions if we can win those pucks. We’ve scored a couple of goals in the last couple of games off of that very circumstance.”
System adjustments aside, Sullivan tips his cap to the players for stepping up and putting themselves in positions to make the most of their power-play chances.
“For me it’s a credit to the players,” Sullivan said. “The guys that are out there, I think they’re playing hard. I think they’re buying into those specific areas that we’ve asked them to buy into and they’re getting rewarded for it. I think to their credit they’ve done a really good job. They’ve had success as of late.”
In their last four games, Sidney Crosby (3G-2A), Evgeni Malkin (1G-3A) and Kris Letang (2G-2A) have stepped up in all aspects of the game. Sullivan has stressed that he doesn’t want to “take the stick out of the players’ hands,” but there is still a balance those players need to find.
“In my experience of being around the elite players in the game, they see the game differently than everybody,” Sullivan said. “That’s what makes them as good as they are. I don’t ever want to get in the way of that as a coach. I think it’s important that we give them the latitude to act on their instincts. That’s when they’re at their best.
“I’m trying to define that line for them where they can’t just try to make plays all the time. We have to recognize areas of the rink where potential danger may occur. For example, I talked to them about the top half of the offensive zone. We don’t want to play one-on-one hockey there. We want to look to play two-on-one. If it results in a one-on-one circumstance, that might be instance where we move the puck and we don’t try to challenge a stick or we don’t try to challenge a one-on-one in that area of the rink because it’s a dangerous area. That’s an example of just some rules of thumb that we’ve tried to give our guys.”