Penguins Report: Game Day at Buffalo
Saturday, 12.19.2009 / 7:00 AM ET / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
AROUND THE RINK (HSBC EDITION)
Left is a full spread of the entire Sabres team in the background. On the glass is the roster of every Sabres team throughout the years. Right is a photo in the suites from the Winter Classic.
Every Sabres player has one of these pieces around the rink. It's an action shot with two GQ poses. Jochen Hecht (left) and Thomas Vanek (right).
All the members of the Sabres' Hall of Fame have portraits hanging throughout the HSBC Arena. Tim Horton (left) and Craig Ramsey (right).
Left is an old action shot from the mid 90s. Pictured are Penguins Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis shooting against Buffalo's Dominik Hasek.
Sounds heard around the locker room:
On getting a break with facing teams on the backend of back-to-back games:
I think it’s just the nature of this year’s schedule. We’ve been the benefactor a couple of times. They’re at home for both of these. We’re expecting a good team. They’re playing aggressive. Their D will be active, they’ll be pinching and pressure situations. We’ll be dealing with that. We’ll be dealing with execution on the wall. I’m looking forward to this one.
On if he’s disappointed or delighted to not face goalie Ryan Miller:
We somewhat anticipated possibly facing an old Pittsburgh Penguin in the net. He played a good game in his last game. I think that was when he had 40-plus saves for the win. I thought he’d be a possibility. I won’t quantify if I’m pleased or unpleased. We were getting ready for both goalies and (Patrick) Lalime if that’s the case.
On facing a team with aggressive defensemen:
The two areas where they are really aggressive is joining the rush, getting up ice and coming out of D zone. That means a responsible F3 (third forward high). That means guys in the corners, at the net and in the offensive zone have to be ready to get back and go into D zone. If we wait for pucks behind the net or get into the wrong side after we turn the puck over in the offensive zone, their D will join and make it three or four guys on the rush. F3 is real important. Managing the puck in the danger areas, top of the circles, passing back to the points, we have to play attention to. In other areas their D will come down the walls in the offensive zone and on their forecheck and that means there’s going to be battles along those walls. Our forwards, support of the puck underneath by our center and our winger coming across and helping are key areas. If you execute in those areas and catch the defenseman coming down the wall you can get opportunities going the other way. Puck management there, execution and support of the puck are key to catch them in that area. If you’re sloppy with the puck and not in good position, they’re going to jump on loose pucks and find themselves with odd-man situations the other way. It’ll be a huge key to the game tonight, both of those areas.
On if their D pinching is similar to the Penguins style:
I think they pinch more on their forecheck than our defense does. The offensive zone is similar. We’re both pretty aggressive, trying to keep pucks in. We want our D to join as well. In a lot of ways very similar but it depends on your F3 being responsible and good reads by the defensemen. We’ll see what teams better at it tonight.
On his impressions from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton game last night:
Mark Letestu, Nick Johnson and Dustin Jeffrey played on a line together. It was their second game together. Both games have been really, really effective. Mark Letestu had three assists. Nick Johnson had two goals and an assist and Dustin Jeffrey had two goals and an assist. They were a big factor in the game. Chris Conner and Smitty (Wyatt Smith) got back into the lineup for the first time in a while. So they got some players back. John Curry was very good in the third when he needed to be. It was good to get to see them play.
On getting a break with facing teams on the backend of back-to-back games:
It adds up. It eventually gets back to even. We had a stretch of a few weeks with a few back-to-backs in a row. It’s nice to get this but at the same time it’s only an advantage if you make it that way and give yourself a chance to win and wear the other team down a bit. We’ve been fortunate to see this four or five times the last few weeks. We have to take advantage of it.
On if there’s a stretch in the game where it’s obvious the opponent’s are fatigued from playing the night before:
When you’re playing well and making the other team work, there’s something to be said about a team wearing down in the third. It’s human nature. It doesn’t matter how good a shape the team is in. If you can outplay them in the first two periods, hopefully you’ll see a difference in the third. You should if you’re doing the right things and that’s usually the case. That doesn’t mean you can let up in the third but if you stick with it you should at least be able to capitalize on that. That’s the challenge that lies ahead. If you don’t use that or make the most of it, it’s still a 50-50 game.
On if the Penguins have learned how to win games when they’re on the line:
We’ve been through a number of situations that gave us that confidence, that experience to help. You’re always learning but you see similar things. Sometimes you’re down goals. Sometimes you have the lead. Last game we needed to find a way to win in the shootout. There’s different ways that you’ll be forced to win games sometimes. As long as you’re winning them and putting yourself in position to finish them out. That’s the biggest thing. You give yourself a chance to do that by playing well consistently. I would say that our consistency has been the best.
On playing from behind:
I think the biggest thing is that we have to be honest with ourselves and know what our game looks like. There are times when we’re ahead but we’re not playing the right way and we have to get back to that. There are times where we’re down by one or two (goals) and we know we’re playing well and it’s only a matter of time. So it’s knowing what you’re game looks like, being confident with it and not really wavering. As long as we know what it takes and what we need to do, we don’t get caught up in scores and pay attention to whether their in our favor or not. It’s just being aware of that.
On wanting to come to Pittsburgh:
I’m not getting any younger. I’m 32 now and every player dreams of winning a Cup. This team found a way to do it last year. They gained a ton of experience. You can’t teach what these guys gained the last couple of years by going to the Final and then winning. We know we have a lot of hard work ahead of this year but it’s a good spot.
On adjusting to the new system:
Every team has different systems. Going from St. Louis to here, I don’t want to give away our secrets but there’s a lot of things that we do on the ice. This team has gotten used to it over the years with Dan (Bylsma) coming in and the changes. It took a little bit of adapting for me early on but it was an easy transition.
On if he’s a different player than his days in Buffalo:
With age you learn and I think it’s a little bit easier. I’m a little more confident on the ice and you play with a little more composure. Right now I feel as good as I felt in years. I’m having fun, enjoy coming to the rink every day and the teams doing well so it’s been easy.
On coming back to Buffalo:
The first time I came back I had a real nervous feeling. My legs felt heavy and hands felt heavy for the first two shifts. After the first time it felt more business like. This is a special place to me. It’s my home when I’m done playing. I’ve got a lot of family and friends here. It will always be special. I think I’m not as nervous any more. I go out there, relax and just play my game.
The Penguins skated their normal lines at the morning skate with Max Talbot and Eric Godard rotating on the fourth line wing. Which will play against the Sabres will be a game-time decision.
Here are some shots of the Sabres Saturday morning skate:
Former Penguin goalie Patrick Lalime is expected to start for Buffalo against Pittsburgh.
Every game and practice starts with a team's equipment. Before the players take the ice, they need to gear up. And whenever the players arrive at the rink, they always enter a locker room that has been carefully and meticulously ordered, arranged and set up by the Penguins equipment staff.
Normally, once the team arrives in a city in the afternoon the equipment staff goes straight to the rink with all the gear and immediately sets up the locker room. However, throughout the course of an 82-game schedule there are occassional quirks that force the staff to set up much later.
When the Penguins played the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Center Oct. 10, the team arrived the day before. But Kylie Minogue held a concert that evening at the arena. So the crew had to wait until after the concert was over to get into the visiting locker room to set up the gear, a late night for all involved.
Another one of those quirks occurred Friday night in Buffalo. That night the Sabres played the Toronto Maples Leafs at HSBC Arena. Therefore the Penguins staff had to wait until after the game and the Leafs had completely cleared out all of their equipment from the locker room before the staff could hang Pittsburgh's stuff.
On this evening, the staff didn't get into the HSBC Arena until some time after 11 p.m. and stayed into the late evening/early morning. A special thanks belongs to the Buffalo Sabres equipment staff, which helped out so that the job would be complete sooner.
Below are some pictures of the visiting locker room at HSBC Arena:
The midnight crew posed for a photo during the set up. The normal crew includes head equipment manager Dana Heinze (second from left), assistant athletic trainer Scott Adams (middle), strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar (third from right) and assistant equipment managers Danny Kroll (second from right) and Paul DeFazio (far right).
They deserve a lot of credit for their tireless work and the Penguins Report salutes their efforts. Keep up the great work boys!!!