Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Philadelphia
Tuesday, 12.15.2009 / 10:35 AM ET / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
Head athletic trainer Chris Stewart and assistant equipment manager Paul DeFazio watch practice from the runway. Matt Cooke and head coach Dan Bylsma watch from the ice.
It has been comically referred to as BiteGate. I’m talking about the incident between Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and Flyers forward Scott Hartnell that occurred in a scrum at the conclusion of Pittsburgh’s 5-4 win in Philadelphia on Oct. 8.
In the melee, Letang appeared to have been bitten on his hand. But he took the high road when asked what happened when talking to the media after the game.
“You’ll have to ask Hartnell about that. He knows what he did,” Letang told the media in the locker room that evening.
When the media asked, Hartnell tried to avoid answering the question.
“He had his hands in my face, doing the facewash and we were rolling around,” Hartnell said after the game. “I can’t say what happened.”
When pressed later, Hartnell was asked, “So there was no biting?”
Hartnell laughed and replied: “No. Well, there was no blood anyways.”
With the teams about to meet for the first time since BiteGate at Mellon Arena tonight at 7 p.m., the media was very curious about how the Penguins felt about the situation. The team, however, seemed uninterested in discussing what happened two months ago.
“That was a long time ago,” Sidney Crosby said. “Things happen in hockey. That’s something we’ve forgot about. Maybe Letang hasn’t, but you have to ask him that.”
Of course the media asked Letang. That's their job.
“I’m going to keep my gloves on,” Letang joked. “I just try to forget about it. I’m not going to focus on that. I’m just going to focus on playing a good game and trying to help my team to win.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma appeared puzzled when a reporter informed him that Letang was going to keep his gloves on.
“I don’t know why he would do that. Nothing happened,” Bylsma said with a smirk.
Crosby had the best quote of the day. When he was asked if he expected these types of incidents to happen between the two teams, he replied:
“You expect an intense game. I don’t think you expect somebody to possibly bite somebody. But you expect an intense game.”
Grimm (left) and Steve Mears (right) on air with the Penguins Live! the HD radio station. The pair conduct the show live while at Pittsburgh's practices.
Sounds heard around the locker room:
On his decision on who to scratch tonight:
It certainly won’t be from playing poorly. We have a healthy cast of players. I would say that we’ve been, as a group, working hard and playing the right way and doing a lot of good things. It won’t be slapping someone for not playing well.
On if it’s easier scratching players due to health:
It’s one of the luxuries of coaching. You get to make this decision. It’s difficult because the players have been playing well. I’d much rather have this luxury with a healthy compliment of players.
On the rivalry:
This game is unique regardless of the situation: where they’re at; where we’re at; whether they have a new coach or not. This is a rivalry game. It has a different feel knowing you’re going to play the Flyers in the next two games. Knowing that they’re coming to your building tonight and knowing the Orange sweaters are going to be out on ice going against you. It’s a different feel no matter what the situations of the teams are. The challenge is being emotionally right for the game, getting charged up, ready for physical confrontation and a tough game. We have to make sure we’re focused on playing our game and not worry about the other things.
On experiencing other similar rivalries:
Coaching with the Islanders, the Rangers-Islanders (rivalry) was very similar. It (felt like) a different day, a different feel in the building. The fans treated it differently. Anaheim and LA has a rivalry. It’s not quite to the point that this one is and the Rangers-Islanders. But certainly it’s a different feel and the fans feel different about each other when it’s an Anaheim-LA game, much like our fans feel about Philly fans.
On the players anticipating the rivalry games:
I agree from a coaching standpoint as well. I’ve paid more attention to the Flyers and where they’re at the last few days than you would a normal game. It has a different feel. From my personal standpoint, coming in my first win last year was against Montreal. The fourth or fifth was against Philly. As I was leaving the ice before the Philly game, that was a road game, the fans were screaming ‘You haven’t won a game yet until you beat Philly.’ Our fans were letting me know that this one is different.
On which player he’ll scratch:
It’s always a game-time (decision).
On Philadelphia coaching change:
I haven’t seen them play a lot, just a little bit last night. I think it’s a little tough right now. I’m sure they’re trying to change some things. It’s not easy to do when you’re in the middle of the season. It’s hard to tell all the changes, but I’m sure as we look at the video and things like that we’ll get a better idea of what’s happening.
On playing home-and-home against Philadelphia:
Either way it doesn’t really matter, I think. With the rivalry of these teams it should be an intense couple of games. It should be a good atmosphere for everyone.
On power-play changes:
We’re still getting used to it. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, but it seems like we’ve been having some good results out there. Now we’ve got to bring that over into a game. We’ll keep focusing on it and try to get better. I think (Saturday’s) game, even though it took us a while to score on the power play, we did some good things. As long as we’re focused on it and we know what we have to do we’ll get some results here soon.
We’re going to use both sides. I think even with the old setup we tried to work both sides. Sometimes there’s things that happen, the way that teams (penalty) kill and things like that. They force you into areas. Hopefully with this power play we can at least spread things out a bit, keep teams guessing.
On games against Philadelphia:
They’re intense games. I think we all realize there’s a little bit extra when these two teams meet. You can feel it out there on the ice. I think as players you look forward to games like that.
On hard-hitting games against Philadelphia:
It’s always a game that’s got a lot of physical play. You always see some scrums in front of the net.
On not being sucked in to taking penalties:
You don’t want to do that. We want to play a fast game, our style of hockey. So you don’t want to stop the play every 30 seconds. We want to play hard, just try to play to our strengths.
On the Flyers:
They have a really good team, very good defense. I think it’s going to be very important to play with our speed and make sure we put the puck deep.
On knowing how Philadelphia plays the game:
We know them really well. We know how they play. Every night they play the same way. They’re aggressive and they’re really hard on the puck. It’s going to be important to manage it and make sure we don’t give anything.
On playing Philadelphia and Buffalo:
It’s a huge test. It’s a huge week in front of us. Philadelphia won a huge game last night. We know they are going to come ready because it is always a big rivalry. It should be interesting with Philly twice and Buffalo, which has been playing really, really good. It is a big test. Yes, we have been playing good hockey, but I think we can play better. We will see this week where we stand.
On Philadelphia bringing out the best in him:
Yeah, it should be fun. These games are always really exciting. With what happened last year I’m sure they are going to want to come here and prove things and play a solid game. It should be the same way for us.
On the feelings for the game:
It starts a couple days before the game. I think the media creates quite a hype around it. We know them really well. That creates even more energy. Obviously when you jump on the ice the crowd will have circled that date on the calendar and they want to see a good game. For us it is fun and exciting.
On the Flyers reminding him of the Penguins last year:
I think last year we had a pretty good start and then we started playing worse in the middle of the season. They are trying to find their game. They had a coaching change. They have a great team. Every night they can win games so you can’t look at their team and say they have been struggling. The Flyers are going to come here ready to play and we better be too.
On traffic in front:
Philly is always interesting in front of the net. They have a bunch of guys who are physical and they have guys who can score goals. Every time we play them it seems like it is a fun game and pretty intense on both sides.
On giving Hartnell a shot when he comes in front:
I have to worry about the puck, first. I will let the other guys worry about that.
On having all his defensemen back:
I think when the guys come back they are ready. They go out and play hard. I’m sure we will see that again tonight.
Marc-Andre Fleury goes back to his normal mask tonight. He is breaking in a new completely white mask in practice.
Obligatory Sidney Crosby pictures!
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who missed Monday's practice due to an illness, was back on the ice for the team's Tuesday morning skate.
Pittsburgh skated in its usual line combinations during the early portion drills: