Penguins Report: Practice 2/11/10
Thursday, 02.11.2010 / 10:32 AM ET / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
After practice on Thursday, Jay McKee took some time to visit children in the oncology unit of Children's Hospital to spread some cheer. Click here for full story.
Sounds heard around the locker room:
On Chris Kunitz:
It’s nice to get the results, he got on the score sheet. But I think the way he was skating with speed and slashing between their defense, that’s what he can bring. That speed and a physical presence. Again, there was a scrum around the net because he goes to the net and pokes out a rebound. There were chances at the net. Certainly the goals are great but there are other things that he brings on a nightly basis when he’s healthy, skating and a physical presence. That’s great to see in our lineup.
On Kunitz feeling the pressure of not scoring before:
I think early on this year he was out there giving what he had to give and not getting some results that other people might expect to see him get. That’s a tough thing for an athlete to go through, and not being able to play at the level that you know you can. You want to be out there and you want to play, but you’re not getting results. It’s good to see him get back and being healthy, skating like he is but also getting the results.
On if Crosby is having a career year:
His overall game is better than it has if you look back. The shooting aspect of his game has added more to his game. Not just shooting but attacking the net, a shooter’s mentality and more chances for people around him. You see that in his game. He continues to work and evolve in his game. He continues to get better. You talk about a career year, that’s barstool fodder. He’s a complete hockey player. Even last night he was held off the score sheet but it was probably one of his best defensive games, tracking back, eliminating the rush. It was a big factor in limiting their chances, especially with the way the D join. That’s another part of his game that continues to get better and that he’s worked on.
On the Rangers without Gaborik:
There’s a dangerous aspect of that guy shooting-wise, hanging onto the puck that we’ve seen this year and on the tape. That’s an element that’s a big part of their goals and how they get goals. That doesn’t diminish what we have to be ready to do and exploit. He will be active and they’ll be a pressure team. We have to be ready to execute. If we’re not then you’ll be turning pucks over against a team like that. That will be our focus. We’ll see if Gaborik is in there or not. We’ll pay attention to that and focus on that power play or if his line is on the aspect. The aspect of playing our game and getting to our game doesn’t change.
On the three-game homestand before the Olympic break:
Today’s practice was short but he guy’s practice well and executed well. We’re trying to focus on finishing the break here with a strong stand at home, and take advantage of that home-ice advantage. We can be better at than we were earlier this year. It was modest at best. We need to establish that at home. These are big games and big points heading into the break. How we go into the break and finish here will set us up for the last 20 games. We’re looking at the Rangers here and working on Saturday when we get that chance.
On getting two goals in last night’s game:
It’s nice getting on the score sheet, but it’s nice to get the win, too, when you’re back. I have a lot of work to go forward here, but I’m feeling somewhat good.
On being up to speed when he skates with Crosby:
He gets to the neutral zone really quick. You have to get up on speed, but you don’t want to be offside and things like that. You have to get your feet moving and make sure you’re in the right areas and try and do that and get the chemistry back.
On if he ever felt the temptation to return to the ice after the Olympic break:
I just kind of reacted to how my body felt. The week before, I didn’t feel very good. Every couple of days, you kind of take big strides. It was just trying to get as close as you can to the rehab part, and playing games is part of that and getting back into it. I feel good, so they let me go back on the ice.
On the chemistry between him and his linemates:
I think we’re all kind of different players, so it works well. Billy’s a great big body, has a great shot and can make those short, nifty passes. Sid’s all over the ice and is obviously one of the best players of the game. If he can go on and do some forechecking, you’re going to get some chances, and I scored a few last night.
On if he feels like Crosby is having one of the best years of his career:
I think he’s obviously a leader on our team. He’s picked up in the areas where we’ve been lacking. He’s scoring goals. He’s top of the league in faceoffs. I think he continues to work on his game. He’s obviously still up there in points. He’s just making it harder for other teams to match up against him.
On how he has seen Crosby change his game:
He takes a lot of shots, stays after those faceoffs. He continuously works at trying to get better.
On the team’s progression throughout the season:
I feel like when we play against top teams, we play much better. Then, we have some letdowns where we are out of our game. It just seems like we just need to mentally prepare for games. We’re just working toward these two games and trying to get both the wins.
On how anxious he is for the upcoming Olympic break:
I’m not anxious; it’s just part of your schedule. But, I’m kind of looking forward just to spend some time with family and relax and prepare your body for the rest of it.
On if he thinks the team is close to playing it’s A-game:
During games, we play pretty good and close to our A-game, but in certain games, we do not do it as well. I feel like we’re working on it, and we just need to focus a little more in preparation.
On how important it is to win these next two games:
I think every win, every point is important, especially when you get close to the end. You know how tight the race was last year.
On Crosby having a career year:
He’s been great all year long. He’s been consistent, racking up points. He’s a great leader. Every night he shows up and plays hard. That’s what we expect from him. Even seeing him in practice every day is pretty cool. It’s a little competition. It’s pretty fun.
On jumping straight from the NHL to Olympic action:
It’s always nice to get to know each other on the ice and get used to everybody. I think everybody will be in it. There’s no advantage to it. Everyone has the same situation so I think it’s fair.
On if it’s easier to adjust to the Olympics as a goalie:
I think so. I don’t have to worry as much about the system. I just have to stop the puck. It’s good to know the defensemen and their tendencies. I’m sure we’ll get used to it.
On having Kunitz back:
It is great. He has worked hard to get himself back as soon as he could. He has come back and it hasn’t really taken a whole lot of time for him to adjust. That says a whole lot about the way he worked.
On scoring the two goals taking pressure off Kunitz:
He is going to create those chances. I am pretty sure that he is confident in his game and what is going to happen when he does those things that makes our line successful. He did that last night.
On not skipping a beat when he returned:
I think it just takes some time with timing and things like that. I think it is definitely a lot quicker than when a guy first comes. After an injury it is always a week or two before you really feel good and feel like your timing is there.
On having a career year:
I feel good but you are always looking at things you can do better. For me, I don’t think that ever changes no matter what is going on. It’s good to see the puck going in but you have to realize that it is not easy. Every night you have to be ready to battle and create things. Even when you do that it doesn’t go in. You want to make the most of the changes you get.
On the Olympic break being more enjoyable if the Penguins are playing at a high level:
I don’t think what goes on here is going to change my Olympic experience. I think personally you want to make sure your game is where it needs to be going in there. Individually we always benefit from the way the team plays. We want to make sure we are playing well heading into the break. Hopefully that will help with momentum after, but also for the guys going we will be at our best going there.
On Canadians across all sports wanting to win on home soil:
It is very important. I don’t think that is a surprise. I think anytime a country hosts the Olympics they want to do their best to perform well and show the rest of the world what they are made of. Talking about the Winter Olympics and talking about Canada, there are some great opportunities for a lot of different athletes. I would say that’s reasonable to say.
On what other sports besides hockey Canada is expecting gold medals:
I think as far as skiing goes, we should have some pretty good results with some of the ski hills and some of the training that has been going on. I think the main thing is there has been a lot of support for those events. That is the biggest thing. Hopefully everyone does well, and we can have a lot of medals.
On knowing other Canadian athletes:
We met a few players from the women’s hockey team this summer. Other than that, not a whole lot. You usually don’t cross paths with too many. I passed the torch there when I was back home and I met a female snowboarder that is supposed to medal. I have met a few but when we get there I’m sure we will meet some other athletes.
On the break:
The break is going to be nice. It will be nice to watch the Olympics, relax and just take a break. Then we can just focus on the final push here.
On his plans for the break:
I am just taking a vacation down to the Caribbean.
On who he will be rooting for in the Olympics:
On rooting for teammates on other teams:
I would like personally for them to do well, but besides that, ‘Go Canada’ I guess.
Assists Jason Seidling and Caitlin Kasunich
After practice the Penguins were fitted for their tuxedos for the annual Skates and Plates Gala. For more detail on SPG, click here.
With Guerin not at practice, Mike Rupp has filled in on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
Ruslan Fedotenko (left); Craig Adams and Dan Bylsma (right)
Tyler Kennedy and Tom Fitzgerald (left); Sidney Crosby, Kennedy, Evgeni Malkin and Danny "The Banker" Kroll (right).
Marc-Andre Fleury (left); Tony Granato, Mike Yeo, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski (right)
Two Penguins are missing from the team's practice (not counting Eric Godard who is on IR with a groin injury). Max Talbot, who has missed eight of the team's last nine games, and Bill Guerin are not on the ice for Pittsburgh.
Two of Bill Guerin's children were having some fun on the Mellon Arena ice prior to practice. His son, Liam, who has become a fan favorite for hoisting the sign "My dad rocks!" during last season's Stanley Cup championship run, was shooting a puck into the vacant goal. One of Guerin's daughters (I'll have to check with him on what her name is) was skating around.
Guerin stepped onto the ice in sandals with his morning coffee, and taught his son how to properly shoot a snap shot, while also timing his daughter as she raced around the rink. For the record, his daughter completed the treck in 30 seconds.
This is a side of hockey that many fans don't get to see that often, and that is the personal lives of many of the players. Guerin always says that he is a family man first (a husband and father) and a hockey player second. It was a touching moment to see him with his children.