Penguins Report: Ponikarovsky's First Practice
Friday, 03.5.2010 / 12:06 PM ET / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
Sounds heard around the locker room:
I’ve actually seen quite of a bit of his last few games. He has a big body and is willing to go to the net. Every game that I’ve seen him play in, he’s made a real good play either in the offensive zone or in the neutral zone for his line to either get a goal or get great scoring chances. The surprising thing about when you watch him is that he’s very conscious on the defensive side of the puck, as well. He works hard on both sides of the puck, and that was probably the biggest surprise about his game. When you’re getting a big body and a guy who can make plays and go to the net and go to the hard areas to do that – I can’t wait to see him tomorrow.
On who he will be paired up with:
If we don’t see Billy Guerin tomorrow, we’ll see him in a couple of different spots. We’ll let that play out.
On if Guerin will play in tomorrow’s game:
We’ll be waiting until tomorrow to find out.
On if Marc-Andre Fleury will be playing tomorrow:
Marc will be starting tomorrow.
On how tough it was to pull Fleury in last night’s game:
I think different situations arise when you’re deciding where you’re at with a goaltender in a given game, but I didn’t feel like he was sharp and on his game. He hasn’t seen a lot of pucks or a lot of practice time either. Marc’s a great goalie. He’s our No. 1 goalie, and he’s going to get back in there. In this situation, I was maybe a little more aware of where he was at given the fact that he hasn’t seen a lot of pucks or played in a lot of games in the past two weeks.
On if Ponikarovsky will be used on either of the special teams:
He will see some time on the power play for sure to start out with. We have seven, eight forwards who kill penalties for us right now and do a good job, and with a lot of those guys, that’s part of their role. He’ll definitely see some power play time.
On having a big body like Ponikarovsky’s on the power play:
It’s a role he could fill. He’s not just a guy who can stand in front. He makes plays and may be down low. He’s more than willing to go to the front of the net.
On the team benefitting from the Olympic break:
I think there was a clear break both physically and mentally in the season when you look at 62 games, and then you have 20 left. Whether we had our eyes on the break or not, whether that was a good thing or a bad thing prior to the break, I’m not going to talk about now. Right now, I think we’ve come back with a good purpose, and we’re on our game and how we’re playing. You’ve seen two pretty good games, but it’s something that we definitely want to keep building on and keep putting out there night after night.
On if going to the net is contagious for players at this point in the season:
I think our team game is getting contagious right now, and a lot of that is the puck being there. We took shots at the net where we would not have taken shots earlier. We also had guys going there. I think it is contagious when you play. Those are parts in the game that we want to be contagious at. We were also very good at getting there and staying there and holding onto the puck in the offensive zone better than we have been. That’s an energized and contagious way to play the game. The great thing that I think about last night’s game is that you felt on the bench that we were going to win the game if we kept playing that way. Whether we won the game or not, the outcome really doesn’t matter. It’s that belief that this is how we need to play, and we keep playing it no matter what – whether we’re up 4-2 or down 4-2. You saw that last night with our team. That’s the contagious part of our game. It’s going to the net. It’s playing in the offensive zone. It’s getting pucks there. It’s looking up at the board and seeing 45 shots and talking about getting 50, and when you get to 55, talking about getting to 55. That’s Penguins hockey.
On if taking a week to work on the details of the Penguins system has benefitted the team:
I think we found some valuable practice time to focus on parts of our game. When you can focus on it and get it into practice, you have a better chance of adding those details to your game. We didn’t break out anything new. The guys knew what it looked like and were willing to bring their team game and build that game. We’ve had that the last two games. The break helped. The practices helped. The focus here with 18 more games to go is that our guys have proved over two games that they’re on that page, and we have to keep it going.
On if he is excited to play in the upcoming games this weekend:
It’s been a while since I played, so I’m pretty excited and looking forward to it.
On if he knows who he will be playing with yet:
No, not yet. We’ll talk about it probably tomorrow. It doesn’t change my job. I just have to play my best game.
On who he thinks might complement him best here in Pittsburgh:
I don’t know. It’s hard to say. They are a good group of guys, and they are pretty skilled. I think it’s going to be up to management and the coach to see who they are going to pair me up with.
On his impression of the Penguins when he watched the game last night:
Everybody was pretty much working hard on the forecheck. That’s how they create all of the turnovers. I looked at the Rangers, and they were pretty tired. They put a lot of pressure on them. That’s basically the battle until the end, and they won the game.
On joining the team that won the Stanley Cup last year:
It’s a great opportunity for me to play in the playoffs and bring whatever I can to the table here. It’s been a while since I played in the playoffs, so I am just taking this opportunity as a present basically. I just have to fit in and do my best.
On if it helps that he knows Ruslan Fedotenko:
When you come to the team and there are some Russian guys and Ukrainians, as well, it helps a lot. It’s nice to have somebody that you can talk to in your native language.
On playing against the Penguins in the past couple of years:
I think a few years ago, they were a young team. They were developing. You can see their output in the last two years. They’ve been in the Stanley Cup Finals two times. They have built up a pretty good team, and they’re going to battle until the end. I know there are a lot of skilled guys here. That’s all I can say. It’s hard to play against them. That’s for sure.
On if he was happy to be traded to the Penguins:
I was pretty anxious. The uncertainty can get to you a little bit. I was kind of surprised that I got traded. There was some speculation, but you never know, because it’s all rumors. You never know if it’s going to happen for sure. When I heard, it was around 11 p.m. at night. I was sitting at home and had just finished watching the game. I know you guys won 3-2 that night against Buffalo. I was watching both games – the Leafs and Pittsburgh, because there was a lot of speculation about that. I was excited, and I knew that a good team picked me up. I’ve been looking forward to helping the team and fitting in. I was excited, and I’m here now.
On getting back into action:
I was happy to get back and get some action but I was disappointed with the way it went. It was tough to give up all those goals. In the end it was nice to see all my teammates come back. Johnny (Brent Johnson) stepped in and made a couple good saves right when he came in, we got a couple goals and got the win.
On seeing few shots:
I like to be a little more involved but there are going to be games like that. I have to make sure I make the right saves at the right times to keep my team in the game.
On the way the team is playing:
The last two games the guys have been playing great for 60 minutes. They have been working really hard and playing the system the way the coach wants us to play. It was been going well.
He is a big guy who is always in front of the net hiding me. He has a good, hard shot and a quick release. He will be good to have around.
On bouncing back against the Stars:
They have been playing well and have gotten some wins. We have to be ready for them.
On who sticks out for Dallas:
We don’t see them a whole lot so some of their players I am not too used too. Morrow was a guy who played very well up in Vancouver. We will keep an eye on him tomorrow.
He looks good. He is a big man with a good shot. I think he will fit in just fine. I know he plays a hard style and works hard. He is tough to play against. It should be interesting how it pans out.
On playing with him:
I think he will look good on any line. It is definitely exciting to have him.
On finally getting to play after the long break:
I was starting to lose my mind practicing all those days. It was nice to get into a game and start feeling that pressure again to go out and compete.
It happens. I know he didn’t see too many pucks throughout the break. It is not easy for a goaltender to step right in and be stellar. Flower always does a great job of bouncing back so he will be fine.
Assist Caitlin Kasunich
Penguins center Jordan Staal pulled a truly selfless act after the team's 5-4 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers Thursday night.
His teammate Evgeni Malkin ripped a one-timer into the goal on a power play in overtime to give Pittsburgh the win. But the official score keepers awarded the goal to Staal. Staal notified the Penguins communications staff that he did not touch the puck and that the goal should be given to Malkin.
After a review by the league, the goal was awarded to Malkin and Staal was given an assist. In an era where most professional athletes fight over their statistics, it's refreshing to see teammates willing to "give up" a goal because it's the right thing to do.
"I didn’t think I touched it," Staal said. "A goal is a goal and Geno (Evgeni Malkin) scored it so he should get it."
Matt Cooke (left)
The Penguins enjoyed a light practice today with only a half hour mandatory sessions. Quite a few players didn't even skate - Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Godard, Brooks Orpik and Bill Guerin. A few players remained on the ice afterwards to do some extra work.
The Penguins are on the ice for their Friday afternoon practice at Southpointe. The practice marks the first time that recently acquired Alexei Ponikarovsky is with his new teammates.
Ponikarovsky was acquired, along with a 2010 sixth-round pick, from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for prospect Luca Caputi and veteran Martin Skoula.
Working visa issues kept Ponikarovsky out of the lineup in Pittsburgh's 5-4 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. However, he has been cleared and will make his Penguins debut this weekend in back-to-back home contests against Dallas and Boston.
He will wear No. 23.