Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Florida
Saturday, 12.12.2009 / 10:24 AM ET / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson wore a new goalie mask to match the team's blue uniforms:
Dan Bylsma hinted that Chris Kunitz (left) could return to the lineup tonight against Florida.
Sounds heard around the locker room:
On Ruslan Fedotenko:
I think his last two games have been his best. When Ruslan has an edge in the way he attacks and shoots the puck, coming over the blue line, looking to make a play, the way he forechecks and his puck battles, there's a distinct difference when he's playing his game real well and there's an edge to the way he plays. In the last game there was a hit right inside the blue line where he was the guy tracking, backchecking and dismissed a gentlement to his butt. That's a good sign that Ruslan has an edge to his game, if he's playing physical, if he goes in the corner, he wins those battles, if he goes to the net, driving to the net, if he's shooting the puck at the tops of the circles or just inside the blue line, that's more the type of game that Ruslan can add and bring to that line. I think the last two games have been an example of him stepping up a little bit.
On Fedotenko playing better in the playoffs:
In a lot of cases you need to get to know the player a little bit more. Last year I watched him from a distance. I didn't really know what was going through his head, his emotions. This year, I've seen him struggle a little bit in terms of getting to his game. The person that takes it the hardest is Ruslan. You don't see that from a distance or on camera. He's a guy that thinks a lot about his game, getting to his game and playing the right way. He takes it home with him and loses sleep over it. He's his own worst enemy, his own worst critic in terms of playing his game. The challenge is to get him focused on doing the right things, get him in the right frame of mind that he can go out and play that game. The playoffs brings that into focus a little more than an 82-game season does. That's his challenge. He's working on it. He comes and asks for video. He comes and asks for what he can do better. Now, knowing him a little more and having a full season with him, you see that he's more concerned than anyone and overly concerned.
On falling behind 2-0 to Florida in the last two games:
That's something we've done not only this year but in past years as well. They're a team that comes very quickly at you. They look to get pucks behind your D very quickly. On the turnover situations, they attack well. Their D join and if you don't manage the puck well and aren't read to execute by their aggressiveness and go back for pucks, they can hem you in. They can come at you with a lot of speed. They've done that to us at different times this year. We have to be ready for that. They are coming off a very good road win to start their road trip against a very good team. Our plan is to be ready for a realy quick start from them. To execute and get past their aggressiveness and get to our game, get to their defense and get to the offensive zone.
On Kris Letang:
The respect that Kris has from his teammates with the way he plays the game, what he adds, how he defends, how he skates is a tell tale of where Kris' game is and what he can be as a player. You expect him to shoot the puck well and get it on net. He has a great shot. You'd like to see it go in a few more times but really his all-around game, his defensive game, his ability to skate is a pretty remarkable asset to have back there. I've heard it on numerous times from guys in our room that he's a good player, a guy that can play, he can defend, he can pass the puck. That says a lot about a young kid who is finding his game in the NHL.
On the power play:
We approach the game with this is where we need to improve, this is how we're going to improve, there is a clear plan and then we go about that. If you watched our players this morning, they went out and worked on it. It's something we talk about in meetings and with video. Sergei Gonchar, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, three guys who are the cogs of our power play, they're out 15 to 20 minutes early working on it. That's our approach to the game. That's how we think we're going to get better. We keep talking about the next play and keep talking about the next game. The power play percentages don' t mean anything until after the game. We were 0-5, that means something. But when you go out and you have a power play, the next power play is the most important one you have. When we go out tonight and going into the game we know how important special teams can be. It's a factor and key to every game. We are going to treat it as such when we go over the boards. We worked on the power play and we think we know what we need to do. We have a clear plan and our guys have gone about working on it. We're going to try to bring that same confidence and demeanor to our power play that we do to other parts of our game. That is an area that we all know that we can get better and we need to be better.
On power play expectations:
I think the expectations of our players gets in the way sometimes. We expect to score. We expect to do better so we get frustrated or lose focus because the expectation is there. Five-on-five you don't expect to score every time you touch the puck so you go out and do the right things. You get offensive zone time and you create scoring chances and you put Ds back on their heels. That's success. Your power play is not earning goals a lot of times and at times we've lost our focus because we don't get the result. We need to focus on the process: our breakouts, entries and retrievals and the set up has to be better for us to get that zone time that we need to have to let our skill and execution go to work. That's where we know we need to get better. That will be our focus. It has been our focus. We will get better when we get better in those areas.
On goal scoring, scoring early goals:
Last game (against Florida) I felt like I had some good chances and finally was able to get one there in overtime (3-2 Penguins OT win Nov. 23 vs. Florida). These guys play a hard game. As long as we can take their forecheck away a bit, try and do the same to them, hopefully we’ll generate some chances.
On ups and downs of games:
It’s a matter of sticking with your game plan no matter what. Sometimes it means that you’re winning and you have to stick with it and sometimes it means that you’re losing and you have to stick with it. Certainly you have to be ready to step up your game, because when teams are down they get desperate and you have to be able to match that desperation.
On what Florida’s strong points:
It’s their forecheck. They create a lot of mistakes with the way they forecheck. They’ve got some guys who can bury the puck. They make you pay for your mistakes. The last two games we’ve been good at getting a lot of shots and their goaltending’s been really strong. I’d say those areas have been their strengths the past couple games.
On Florida’s forecheck:
I think all four lines are pretty committed to doing the same thing. They’ve got a lot of speed. Some teams try to play that way and, all the way through the lineup, they don’t have the speed, but this team has proven they can have a lot of success with the way they play. They’ve all bought into that. They’ve gotten some good results from it.
On Florida’s defense:
They’ve got some guys who can play physical. I think you see that with every team. You’re always going to have your match-ups, your challenges. That’s been the example. Every game is like that. There’s always a match-up. You’ve got to be ready to battle and compete.
On Thursday’s game against Montreal:
From start to finish we were pretty consistent. If we look at anything, maybe our power play could have been a bit better. Other than that I thought every line contributed. We were able to gain some momentum. We got a lot of shots and really had the momentum for most of the game. I would say there and we want to build off that. I think we like our chances. We really wanted to respond after the game against Carolina. We knew that wasn’t our best game. It was great to see that we came out that way.
On how he feels on the ice:
I feel pretty good, getting back into the speed of the game, trying to ease into it. It’s always nice when you come back and the team can win.
On injury stretch, second injury:
It wasn’t a setback. I was totally healed from my injury. It was a totally freak thing, a different injury, kind of weird, a little frustrating. But it’s part of the game. You just heal up as fast as you can and try to get back out there.
On healthy Penguins defense:
I think we’ve been pretty solid all year. Our forwards do a lot of that too, helping us down low and controlling the puck in our team’s offensive zone. I think we’re all real comfortable having seven of us back here.
Assist Tom Mast
Max Talbot practices shooting through head coach Dan Bylsma
Assistant trainer Scott Adams tapes Pascal Dupuis' wrist (right)
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that Chris Kunitz was very close to returning and that he would be back in the lineup either tonight against the Florida Panthers, or in next Tuesday against Philadelphia.
"With Kunitz we ramped up his skating and battle in practice," Bylsma said. "He continues to respond so he is very close to playing. Possibly tonight or maybe the next game."
On another lineup note, it appeared that goaltender Brent Johnson may get the start in goal tonight. But Bylsma played coy with reporters when asked about it:
"It sneakingly looks like a choice tonight," Bylsma said. "There are 82 games and Marc-Andre Fleury is on pace to play one or two more games than we scheduled him to play at this point. It's nothing more than Johnson getting a chance to possibly play."
Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, who has missed the last 13 games wtih a lower body injury, skated on a line with Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin at Saturday's morning skate, an indication that he may be on the brink of returning to the lineup.
The line combinations at the morning skate were:
If Kunitz is healthy enough to play it would be the first time all season that the Penguins have had their full compliment of players at their disposal.