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Penguins Report: 4/4/11

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 10:00 AM / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
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Penguins Report: 4\/4\/11

  • Brent Johnson has a baby (12:45 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma video for NHL coach of the year (1:18 PM).
  • Asham practiced and more from coach Bylsma (1:34 PM).
  • Foursome at early AM practice (10:45 AM).
  • WBS Thiessen named AHL goalie of the year (3:43 PM).
  • Pens sign F Brian Gibbons (4:00 PM).
  • Orpik, Neal, Dupuis and Staal spit knowledge (1:14 PM).
  • PensTV talks to Talbot and Lovejoy (3:01 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:14 AM).
  • “Banker” gets some TV time (1:39 PM).
  • “It’s like the sermon of a twisted apparition was urging him to follow the train in the distance…” (10:00 AM).



4:00 PM:
The Pens signed BC forward Brian Gibbons to a two-year entry level contract.



3:43 PM:
WBS goaltender Brad Thiessen was honored today as the AHL's goaltender of the year. Michelle Crechiolo followed up with more on the major accomplishment.



3:01 PM:
PensTV got the dirt from Maxime Talbot and Ben Lovejoy...

MAXIME TALBOT



BEN LOVEJOY





1:39 PM:
A camera was being broadcast of Mellon Arena on the jumbotron in CONSOL Energy Center during practice. After the team finished practice, assistant equipment manager Danny "Banker" Kroll ran outside to get on the camera. You can see him below frantically waiving a towel.






1:34 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

Opening:
Arron Asham returned to practice today from his minor lower-body injury. Nick Johnson, Sidney Crosby and Matt Cooke all skated earlier. Eric Tangradi skated both times, he did double duty. Brent Johnson and his wife Danielle have given birth this morning to Everly Grayce Johnson. That is why he was not at practice today.

On if the team will emphasize winning or getting ready for the playoffs in the final week:
I think right now going into (Tuesday’s) game a big focus for our team is trying to get and maintain home-ice. Playing and playing well going into the playoffs is a part of that as well. You want to have a real clear understanding of how you’re going to play and how you’ll play as a team going into the playoffs. Playing well as a team is a part of that. We haven’t said we need to win all three games. We know if we win all three games we will hold home-ice. We have that focus going into tomorrow’s game, winning this game and making sure we put ourselves in a position to keep home-ice.

On tweaking the power play:
We had some systematic and fundamental changes to what we were doing and where guys were going to be. It gives us a little more focus on overloading situation can operating up top. I thought you saw from both units that we were able to establish a lot of shots and attacking certain areas where we hadn’t been doing that as well. We’ll continue to work on that. We have three games to try to get that mentality and establish something. In the playoffs it’s a game-by-game situation. To have the confidence to go over the boards and have to execute to get a goal in the third period or get a lead, knowing that you’re going to get two or three or four power plays a game, that’s something we’re trying to build with our practices and the final three games.

On fighting through the injuries:
It says a lot about the guys in that room. The ability regardless of the situation or injury situations to go out and play at a level and standard that we want to play and having success doing that. It says a lot about the guys and depth. It also says a lot about the leadership. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a real meaningful part of all of that. He’s been the most valuable player to our team. He’s given us the confidence to keep playing the way we play and having success against good teams.

On putting Zbynek Michalek on point for the power play:
(He brings) a shooting presence, for sure. He was the first guy over the boards in the game in Florida. And Z’s mission is to wire the puck at the net. He’s got one of our hardest shots, if not the hardest shot. If he’s hitting ankles, we’re alright with that. You saw his goal – it wasn’t a power-play goal, we had an extra attacker on – but he wires the puck to get us a goal. He was also firing the puck on the power play when he had a very brief time out there in Florida. That’s what his goal is and what he brings. He’s a right-shot guy. When we’re setting him up, it’s a one-time pass. When he gets it, he should be thinking about putting it right through the goalie.

On Kris Letang’s numbers dropping recently:
They are certainly special when we’re talking about the power play. It’s a concern, because we’re looking for our back end there to provide some offensive shots to the net. I think the most important thing is getting the shot off and through to the net-front area, not necessarily on net, because we have guys going there. That’s something that I think has dropped for Kris in the last 25 games. I think as a result, he’s gotten less goals, he’s gotten less rebound situations for his players. In terms of taking away from other parts of his game, I think at times it has a little bit. When he’s gone out there looking to carry the puck and make plays or get in the play, it’s taken away from his all-around game. We’ve talked about it. And when it comes to the playoffs, he’s good there because his focus has gone on defending. And it’s opened up more for him the other way as a result. On the power play, I think shooting is a factor for him. He needs to be better. And him playing in our structure is playing that good defensive game and being a shut-down guy. I think it helps his overall game.

On what it would mean to him to finish with the NHL’s best penalty kill:
As a player, it’s something I was never able to do – which I took a lot of pride in that aspect of the game, and I got close a couple times. It would mean more for me if I put myself in a player’s shoes than it does as a coach. I don’t like to talk about it, and I don’t like to look at those things as a coach. (Knocks on wood). Because to me, the penalty kill is always about the next one. We’re going to end the season here shortly, and it’s always about the next one in the playoffs. That’s the focus that I like to maintain as a PK group. If we have a poor game tomorrow, it will be about the next chance we get to go out there. It won’t mean we failed or that things are in the wrong direction. I take a lot of pride in our PK this year, because I think it’s a real strength and it’s allowed our team to be a very good team. Marc-Andre has been a big part of that. And the PK and what we’ve been able to do this year – and even with what we’ve been able to do four-on-three and five-on-three – has allowed us to be a very good team and win hockey games. That’s what I take a lot of pride in as a penalty kill guy. I think our players and Tony Granato have done a good job to focus throughout the year, and the consistency has been remarkable. Again, it’s allowed our team to be a confident team. A game like Florida is a perfect example. We not only killed the four-on-three – which was an outstanding job by our PK – but we had to kill one early on in that third period. If we don’t, it puts us down with about 14 minutes to go in the game. So there’s a lot of pride, and it’s been a big part of our team’s identity. That’s something we know we’re going to do when we hop over the boards.  But ask me at the end of the season,  and I’ll let you know what I feel about that number or ranking.



Alley-oop: Tony Jovenitti



1:18 PM:
Pens coach Dan Bylsma has led a team to 100 points despite suffering 341 man-games lost and counting. As such, he is getting some attention for a possible NHL coach of the year award. Here are a few comments on his credentials, and a video to accompany.






1:14 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On the importance of this last week:
There’s definitely a lot on the table. Tampa had a big win in Chicago last night, they’re right on our heels. It looks more and more likely that we’re going to play them in the first round. It’s just a matter of who gets home ice.

On if they are still trying to catch Philadelphia:
I think you do. But sometimes you need help from other teams. You just kind of control what you can control. With the situation we’re in with Tampa, we can control that destiny. Against Philly, we need help. That one, I don’t think you put as much focus into. If you win your games and Philly happens to lose, then that’s great, but it’s out of our control.

On being in situations like this before:
We were talking about it yesterday. Some of those teams like New York and Buffalo are down there at the bottom of the playoff race, so they play meaningful games at the end and gain momentum going into the playoffs. Philly’s a prime example of that last year. They won in a shootout on the last day and they used that momentum going into the playoffs and all the way to the finals. I think it’s good to be on top of your game there at the end of the season.

On if momentum is more important than home-ice advantage:
I think it’s different building to building. Montreal is obviously tougher to play in, there are certain buildings where I think you would like to have home ice. And even the year we won, we played Washington there and lost the first two on the road then bounce back and play Game 7. I think it’s less and less important, but it’s always a little easier playing at home when you have your own routine.

On his game:

I felt fine by the Philly game. In my first game, the timing was a little off. But that Philly game was a good one to get right back into, it was a playoff atmosphere. And the last two in Tampa and Florida felt pretty good and normal for me.




James Neal

On if they are still battling for the division title:
Of course, that’s what you work for all year. When it’s that close you want to do everything you can to get there. That starts with winning the last few games.

On working on the power play in practice:
Going into the playoffs you want to have your special teams working good, because those can win you games. We got some different looks today and we felt it worked well in Florida. We just want it to be crisp and execute it.

On what was different about the power play in Florida on Saturday:
We just changed it up. I think with the players we have and the way we have it set up, it gives us some better looks.


Pascal Dupuis

On the final few games:
We have teams right behind us, and we’re still trying to catch Philly. So at the same time, we just have to play our style of hockey. It’s that easy. We just have to stay focused and play some hard games. We don’t want to take bad habits out there, and you don’t want to take some shifts off. That’s the way games are going to be played in the playoffs – tight-checking games – so that’s how we’re going to approach it this week.

On reaching 100 points with all of the injuries:
It’s a great achievement. We’re pretty proud of ourselves to be in that position despite all of the injuries. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we still have a shot to win the title. But it’s a step to make the playoffs. We’re ready to play some good hockey, and it’s one step in the good direction.

On what’s special about this team:
Look at the character you have in the locker room. A lot of guys went down, and some different leaders stepped up. Some guys stepped up their games, and Marc-Andre and Brent Johnson played really good for us to keep us in the race. It’s a matter of hard work and leadership that helped get us where we’re at.

On if Fleury should be MVP:
Definitely, I think he is.




Jordan Staal

On the power play:
We have a little different set up now. We’re just finding ways to get some shots and get a crack at the net. The simpler the better, and we’re just trying to do that right now.

On having a tight race to finish the season, as opposed to previous years:

Every game is big. Definitely, at this time of the year, every two points can change a lot in the standings. You want to win every game and get the ball rolling coming into the playoffs.

On Tampa Bay being a likely playoff opponent:
It’s obviously a different team than we usually faced the last few years. They’re an exciting team. They play a pretty mean trap, and they have a lot of skill up front. If we end up playing them, it’s going to be an interesting series and a hard-fought battle.

On Tampa’s trap:
It’s definitely not an easy thing to go through, and we can’t play their game. We have to stick with what we can do. And that means playing quick, playing in their end as much as we can and trying to get through their trap as best as we can.

On the importance of home ice:
It’s always nice to have it, but it won’t make or break the series. We’d like to have the best position possible in the standings and we’re worried about getting the two points so we can have that.

On getting 100 points with all of the team’s injuries:
It just goes to show the depth we have. So many different players stepped up big throughout the year when key players have been out. Obviously our goaltenders were great all season long. They’ve kept us in every game, and that’s a big reason. A lot of other things contribute to trying to win every night.

On if Fleury should be the MVP:
I think he should be up for it, with the things he’s done this year with the adversity we had. He’s been a rock back there for us. He’s done so many good things to keep us where we’re at right now.

100-point season: Tony Jovenitti



12:45 PM:
Brent Johnson and his wife Danielle are the proud parents of a new beautiful baby girl - Everly Grayce Johnson. Congrats to both.



11:14 AM:
Pens pics...


Kunitz (left); Rupp and Bylsma (right)


Kennedy (left); Meloche (right)


Letestu (right)


Engelland (left)



11:00 AM:
The Pens are making their way onto the CONSOL Energy Center ice for their 11 a.m. practice. The only missing person is goalie Brent Johnson (whose wife gave birth to a new baby!!!) Video coordinator Jim Britt is working in his place.



10:45 AM:
The early morning practice session (starting at 9 a.m.) featured Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke, Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson.



10:00 AM:
The final week of the regular season starts today and the Pens are still jockeying for playoff position. The team currently sits in the fourth spot with 100 points in the standings, one point ahead of Tampa Bay and three behind Philadelphia for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The worst the team can finish is the No. 5 hole.

Pittsburgh hosts division rival New Jersey Tuesday night in the final home regular-season contest at CONSOL Energy Center this year. The Pens finish up the season with a two-game road trip to Long Island and Atlanta.

With the Devils coming into town tomorrow, we’ll open the day with Lab Rats song “Devil’s Train.” The Lab Rats are a Columbus, Ohio group that blends many different instruments. Or according to their website, the group is “defined by a Rock and Roll mentality and a blue collar reality; explained within the realm of hip hop, blues, rock & electronica; determined to make new music.”

I saw the duo play a show in Oakland back in 2006 and absolutely loved "Devil's Train." And it seems appropriate with New Jersey coming to town.

Enjoy. 

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