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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Philadelphia

Tuesday, 03.29.2011 / 9:30 AM / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan

  • Letestu is back in the lineup (11:13 AM).
  • Jeffrey injury update (11:32 AM).
  • Pens’ lines (10:34 AM).
  • Crosby skates today, video evidence (11:51 AM).
  • Crosby, Cooke, Tangradi, N.Johnson skate (9:38 AM).
  • Fleury in net, Engelland to sit (12:14 PM).
  • Letestu talks about returning to the lineup (12:54 PM).
  • Lots of good reads for the day (5:03 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Letestu, the Flyers and the Pens’ D (12:16 PM).
  • Fleury, Dupuis, Staal, Letang and Neal spit knowledge (12:49 PM).
  • Lovejoy, Martin and Talbot wax intellect (12:24 PM).
  • Talbot utters quote of the day – spoiler bromance with Fleury (1:26 PM).
  • Thiessen re-assigned (10:00 AM).
  • Pens pics (12:19 PM).
  • Pre-morning skate pics (10:02 AM).
  • Flyers pics (12:52 PM).
  • “Dayman! Ahhhahh! Fighter of the Nightman…” (9:30 AM).


5:03 PM:
A bunch of good reads today:


1:26 PM:
Quote of the Day: Maxime Talbot talking about his good buddy Marc-Andre Fleury as NHL MVP.


Bromance.



12:54 PM:
Mark Letestu returns to the lineup tonight. Here's what the Pens center had to say to the media:

On if he is playing tonight:
Yeah, I just talked to coach, and he’s throwing me out there. So it’s like Groundhog Day for me. I’ve been through this once before. Hopefully I’ll have the same kind of game that I had coming back from the other injury tonight.

On how he feels:
I feel great. I took faceoffs today, everything. (I had) contact, there’s no restrictions on my game. Otherwise, I don’t think they’d put me out there. I think we’ve got a pretty good thing going. To put a guy out there that’s less than a hundred percent or has any restrictions I think just cheats the guys in the room. So I’m full go, and I think there’s no better challenge than the one tonight.

On coming back in a game like tonight:
It’s a good atmosphere. It’s a great test, for the group included. It’s a nice position that we’ve battled ourselves into, and I think everybody here’s looking forward to a chance to get to the top of the division.

On centering James Neal and Alex Kovalev in the morning skate:
Yeah, he had me skating there today. Whether he keeps that for the game, obviously we’d like to have a little bit more success than we did before I had the injury. But I think as long as we keep winning, it’s not a big deal they’re not scoring. I think the W’s right now are what’s more important.

On if he saw anything watching Neal and Kovalev while he was injured that he can bring to the ice tonight to help them mesh:
I’m not sure that I have anything that’s going to help them (laughs). I think it’s coming for them. They’ve had great chances. I think Nealer’s hit three or four posts in the past few games here. It’s going to come for those guys.






12:52 PM:
1,000 words worth of the Flyers morning skate...


"Bob" (left)


Richards (left)





12:49 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room (Version 2.0)...

Marc-Andre Fleury

On the significance of the Penguins winning tonight and not allowing the Flyers two points:
That would be big. To get two tonight, we would be able to catch them and it would give us a good shot at the title. So it’s going to be a fun game.

On if last week’s game against Philly was one of their best despite going to the shootout:
The guys played one of their best games in the past couple of weeks. We played a very solid team with a lot of good forwards, and we only gave up 20 shots. So it was a great team effort.

On if being in a position to actually catch the Flyers was something the team actually envisioned was possible a month ago:
It’s a little crazy, you know. Especially since we’ve had the kind of year we’ve had, with all the injuries. I think it shows that we have a lot of character on the team and in Wilkes-Barre also, from all of the guys coming up. They’re doing a great job.

On if the team feeds off the crowd:
Against Philly, I always think it’s a little more intense, more physical, more emotional a little bit. So I think it’s easier for the fans to get loud and to get into it, and then it gives us some energy.


Pascal Dupuis

On if being in a position to actually catch the Flyers was something the team actually envisioned was possible a month ago:
I think we were always in the race, but the latest little stretch here put us two points behind. We won in their building, gave them a point. But they’re here back in our building tonight, and we obviously want to get a big win and try not to give them one.

On what it says about the character of this team that they’re still able to win without key players:
It’s just the fact that it shows how the system is, how our goaltending has been, and we’re solid defensively. We can play even though we’re missing our two best forwards. We’re still in every game and we’re battling out there. So it’s a good sign.

On how catching the Flyers has been a stated goal in the locker room and how that’s spurred them:
You look at the standings, and we’re creeping up and creeping up and then now we’re playing them tonight only two points behind. I guess it’s in our hands right now, to win some hockey games and to finish first.


Jordan Staal

On if being in a position to actually catch the Flyers was something the team actually envisioned was possible a month ago:
I don’t know. I mean, obviously we’ve worked hard enough for it, and it’s great to have the opportunity to be able to get a chance to get to first place. We’re excited about the challenge and hopefully we can do it.

On what it says about the character of this team that they’re still able to win without key players:
We’re getting some guys back, but for the amount of guys that we’ve lost, a lot of man-games this year, it just says for the character in this room. The players that have stepped up when we needed them, it’s great to see we’re still winning games and finding ways to try to get to that top spot.

On the biggest advantage to finishing first:
It’s what you strive for throughout the season, it’s where you want to be. And that’s what our goal has been all year long, and hopefully we can find a way to get there.


Kris Letang

On not playing the Flyers at home since Oct. 29:
Home or away against these guys, it’s always an important game. It’s intense, a lot of emotion, and obviously now that there’s a big reward between the two teams. It’s going to be a really intense game.

On if they saw anything that surprised them about the Flyers in their last game after not seeing them for three months:
No, not really. We always knew they had a really strong defensive core that can join the rush. But their strength is that they have three lines that can score goals. They’ve got pretty powerful forwards and you have to be aware on every shift that they can create and score goals. Their three lines are really good. But (Claude) Giroux is really dangerous, Giroux and (Danny) Briere together are really dangerous. (Scott) Hartnell can score goals. They have depth at every line. They have tons of top players, they don’t have a specific one. Everyone is really good on their team.


James Neal

On what they can bring to the ice tonight that they learned in their last game against the Flyers:
I thought we controlled a lot of that game and we were focused going in and took control right off the start and held them to a limited amount of shots. So I think we just need to be focused and do the same thing tonight and hopefully we’ll get a better result.

On what it means to be in a position to catch the Flyers:
It’s great. I think it’s what you work for all year, to be at the top. We’ve given ourselves a chance to be right there and we’ve got to put a lot of emphasis on tonight’s game and really go out there with a good focus in line.



Bedhead: Michelle Crechiolo



12:24 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Ben Lovejoy

On trying to get the win in regulation:
We first focus on getting the two points. If we can come away with two and them come away with zero then that would be even better.

On the key to their success in the recent game against the Flyers:
We dictated the pace of play. I think we executed well and we played exactly how we want to play. We wanted to play in their zone up the ice. We wanted to throw as many pucks on their goaltender as possible and I think we did that.

On the atmosphere during the last game against the Flyers:
That was a playoff atmosphere for sure. We need wins and the game was very clean on both sides. They played a clean game too and I think that at this point of the season the chippy-ness will be put away and everything will be focused on winning.




Paul Martin   

On the Flyers:
We are definitely familiar with each other and how they play and the guys that they have. We have to get the two points. We did a good job against them last game and I am sure they will be ready to play tonight.

On the how important the home crowd will be:
They will be huge. We have had a good crowd all year and I won’t expect it to be any different tonight especially with Philly coming to town. There will be a lot of excitement in here but at the same time we have to make sure we don’t get too excited. We need to play our game and hopefully get the two points.

On having so much to play for in the last few games of the season:
If you go into the last five or six games nobody knows then it provides a little more excitement down the stretch. The games are a little more intense compared to when you’re already locked in you just try and get through those games healthy and go into the playoffs.




Maxime Talbot

On the most important thing about being first in the East:
Getting home-ice advantage is obviously a big thing in the playoffs. If it goes down to the seventh game you want to have it at home. Obviously playing the lowest seed all the time can be an advantage. But more often it is the teams that are six, seventh, eight that are really battling to get in the playoffs. They come into the playoffs hot.

On Marc-Andre Fleury:
Flower has been a big reason why were winning some games and are in the position we are. He has always been really good in February, March, April, June and hopefully he can keep doing that. If I had to vote for the Hart Trophy, the Hart in my heart would be Flower.

On the atmosphere for tonight’s game:
The fans are always ready for a good Philly game. The Flyers are ready as well and they are always really interesting games.

Quid: Joe Prince-Wright



12:19 PM:
Here are some Pens pics from the morning skate...


Talbot (left); Rupp (right)


Kennedy and Johnson (left); Letang (right)


Mustache Boy Kunitz (right)


Orpik (left); Dupuis (right)


Coach Bylsma (left); Adams (right)



12:16 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On how to handle the aftermath of tonight’s Philly game:
Every year at this time of year as you approach the end of the season and know you’ll be in the playoffs and may know your spot, there seem to be one or two games where there is a letdown or non-focused factor for your team. I don’t anticipate any of that tonight. It does happen every year. Every year I’ve been a part of a coaching staff it has happened. Those are sometimes tough times for coaches because you want to bring that focus to the game. It seems to be built into the makeup of the team sometimes. Once you get to a certain spot sometimes there is a dip.

On what Letestu adds to the lineup:
Faceoffs are a huge factor. With the rule changes and getting a faceoff in the offensive zone and starting with the puck is a huge advantage for your power play to immediately establish zone time and attack off the faceoff. To not win it, getting clears and going down the ice is a point of frustration for power plays and can build up a penalty kill. It can make it difficult to establish anything. Faceoffs are a big factor. That’s why Jordan Staal started the last four games on the power play because he’s our best faceoff guy at getting us the puck. Now Mark Letestu will be on one unit and Jordan on the other. Hopefully, we will be better in that regard. I think the best player on our roster to gel with Kovalev is Mark Letestu. It is a bit on how he supports the puck, but also his intelligence of the game and reading situations, knowing where to be. That allows some chemistry to build. Hopefully in the next six games we can get them to hit their stride.

On what’s important to finishing first:
The biggest advantage is knowing that we beat good teams to get there. We beat Detroit, Philly, Boston in big games. It put us in this situation. If we can get there then we know we’re a good team, and won big games to get there. The seeding is important. Home-ice is something you’d like. History has proven that those two things aren’t necessarily decisive factors in moving on in the playoffs. We’ve had the goal to get to first. We’ve won some big games. We’ve put ourselves in that situation. Tonight is a pivotal game for that. Without this two points I don’t know what the chances are. It’s another big game and we need the Philadelphia Flyers to come into our building. This is the type of game you want to be playing at this time of the year. We’ll get it on at 7 tonight.

On changing the D corps:
We’re staying with the same six.

On what the emotional makeup of this team from last year’s down the stretch:
There has to be a development and progression from your team throughout the season. Every season is different. Sometimes the development of your team happens earlier or later or sometimes you have to reroute the season based on different things that might happen. Adversity comes your way in different forms and facets. This team is almost gone a completely different route than last year’s team. We’ve been galvanized by some of the adversity that we’ve had and situations that we’ve been put it. It’s forced our team to learn how to play and win in a unique way. Maybe different than last year even though we’re playing the same way. We’ve learned different things about our team. We’ve had success in different ways. We believe and are comfortable playing the type of game that we’re playing now. We know that we can be in these games. We’re confident and we believe in the strength of our team in different aspects, differently than last year. We’ve won big games and pushed at this point and time of the year and gotten results. When they look around the room they know how the game is going to be played out and are confident we can win those games. We’ve put our mind frame going into tonight’s game and the playoffs that we know how we’re going to play and are confident we can be a good team. We think we can win games that way.






12:14 PM:
Here are some other game notables from coach Bylsma:
  • Letestu will play with Kovalev and Neal
  • Fleury will start in goal
  • Engelland will not be in the lineup on D



11:51 AM:
Check out today's video of Crosby skating with some teammates from this morning.



Cold as Ice: Mike Davenport



11:32 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that Dustin Jeffrey had an MRI that revealed damage, but the degree hasn't been determined.

"Jeffrey had an MRI yesterday and there is some damage to his knee. It needs further evaluation to determine how much it is at this point and time. There's no timetable right now, but it did show some damage. They need to do further investigation to as much as it is."



11:13 AM:
Center Mark Letestu confirmed that he will be back in the lineup tonight against Philly.

"I just talked to coach and he's throwing me out there," Letestu said. "It's like Groundhog Day for me. I've been through this once before. Hopefully, I'll have the same kind of game that I had coming back from the other injury tonight."



10:34 AM:
Letestu skated in his old slot between Kovalev and Neal during the line rushes. It's a great sign that maybe he will be returning to the ice. Here are the rest of the combos:

Neal-Letestu-Kovalev
Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy
Dupuis-Talbot-Conner
Rupp-Adams-Asham
(Tangradi-Comrie-Godard)



10:27 AM:
The Pens are making their way onto the ice at CONSOL Energy Center for the morning skate. Some new faces amongst the crowd as Mark Letestu and Brent Johnson have re-joined their teammates.



10:02 AM:
Here are some pics from the guys early morning workout...


Brent Johnson


Nick Johnson (left); Eric Tangradi (right)


Even the team captain has to clean up the pucks after their practice session



10:00 AM:
It looks like goalie Brent Johnson, who missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, is back to health. The team re-assigned Brad Thiessen to WBS.



9:38 AM:
A couple guys on the ice at CONSOL Energy Center right now working with strength & conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke, Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson are getting in some early morning work.

Also of note, goalie Brent Johnson skated without gear before those guys took the ice. He shot a few pucks and did a few laps.






Check out Crosby's cheese. Good to see him smiling again.



9:30 AM:
Here we go!!! Tonight the Pens and Flyers will battle at CONSOL Energy Center with the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference crown hanging in the balance. Philadelphia holds a slight two-point lead over the Pens, but that could all change after tonight.

Despite all the injuries the Pens have suffered, it's a testament to play of Marc-Hart Fleury and the coaching of Dan "Jack Adams" Bylsma that Pittsburgh sits only two points out of the top spot in the conference. The Pens can take a major step toward their goal of topping the Flyers when the puck drops a few hours from now.

The Pens-Flyers is a classic rivalry, alongside Yankees-Red Sox, Lakers-Celtics, North Carolina-Duke, Frazier-Ali. Or the most intense rivalry in the history of mankind: Dayman vs. Nightman.

(Stage freeze! Don't say stage freeze, just do it!)




It doesn't take much to get pumped up for Pens-Flyers. But just to crank up the volume up to 11 we'll kick off the day with a song that really sums up the mutual feeling between these two teams. Here is Three Days Grace's "I Hate Everything About You." Enjoy.

CONSOL Energy Center CONSOL ENERGY PNC Wealth Management UPMC FedEx Ground Verizon Dick's Sporting Goods 84 Lumber American Eagle Outfitters Highmark