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Penguins Report: Game Day at NY Islanders

Friday, 04.08.2011 / 10:00 AM / Penguins Report
By Michelle Crechiolo


  • Everybody is accounted for at practice, with N. Johnson, Crosby and Cooke joining the skate (11:28 AM).
  • Pens' morning skate lines, possible lineup change (11:42 AM).
  • Bylsma on what he expects from tonight’s game and Sidney Crosby (1:34 PM).
  • Staal, Kunitz and Michalek spit knowledge (1:14 PM).
  • Pens fans come to the Island to support their team (6:48 PM).
  • Pens antsy to get on the ice…(11:55 AM).
  • Pens pics (1:34 PM).
  • Islanders pics (10:49 AM).
  • Rookie rookette of the year (10:46 AM).

6:50 PM:
One final note before game time: I've gotta say thanks to Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy for showing me the magical cupcakes here at Nassau Coliseum. I had a funfetti-flavored one and it was awesome. Although next time, I'm definitely going with Double Trouble per Sean's recommendation.
6:48 PM:
The dedication of Pens fans never ceases to amaze me. The Pensblog organized a group of fans to come to tonight's game in Long Island and show their support for the team and be that seventh man for them in an arena that wasn't too friendly the last time they were here. Click here to find out more.


1:35 PM:
Here's the delayed evidence of the Pens in action on the Island...




Tanger (left); Sid (right)


Flower hydrating (left) while B. Johnson and Orpik wait for the next drill to start (right)


Brooksie chatting with Kunitz (left) while Max points something out to Rupper (right)







1:34 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On what he expects going into tonight’s game:
I know our mindset coming in here is we have a chance, with two points, to secure home ice for the first round, and we have a chance still to catch the top spot in the division and move up in our seeding. Our mindset is coming in here to win a hockey game, and there’s some importance to this game for us.

On if he expects this game to be a different scenario than two months prior:
My experience in a lot of hockey is that in games where you’re talking about the next game after stuff on the ice like we had last game, there’s lots of talk. There’s anticipation of what might happen. And usually, it seems to not happen in that game. That’s been usually the experience. Again, we’re coming to play to win the game. We want two points. There’s a lot of meaning for it for us in terms of what we can gain from it, and that’s how we’re approaching the game. We want to get the two points, and that’s our sole intention in coming in here. We’re going to do that with playing the way we play. A fast game and get to the offensive zone, and that’s our mindset going into the game.

On if their last game against the Islanders was as low as they’d been all season from a hockey standpoint, as they didn’t play very well:
When I look at last game, I see giving up 20 scoring chances and only getting nine. I see giving up eight power-play chances against. There’s a lot to that game that got overshadowed with the extracurricular activities. We played very poorly. We weren’t good in very many areas of that game, and that got overshadowed. So when I look back at that game, that’s what I see about that game and those are the things that concern me going into this game. They have some speed, that hurt us last game. Their power play hurt us. They had D that activated in the play, that hurt us. Those were all things that we need to get ready for, playing the Islanders.

On if there is any change in Sidney Crosby’s status:
No change in that status, just continuing that progression and on the ice. Again, his interaction is with the doctors, not with the coaching staff or training staff. So he gets his daily activity and progression from somewhere else, not us.

On if it’s getting a little late for people to hope Crosby would be around for the start of the playoffs just based on the calendar:
We’ve said it before and continue to say it, he has a couple more steps to go in his rehabilitation before he can even think about returning to play. I don’t know how fast that’s going to happen, I don’t know if that’s going to happen. There’s no way to even make a timetable. And considering that he has two more steps to go through, it would seem like anything in the immediate future is out of the question.

On how meaningful it would be to cement home-ice advantage tonight with everything they’ve been through this season:
I think it adds a lot to the game, adds a lot of meaning. For us to be able to get two points tonight and get home ice for sure, and also to still have the ability to get the top spot in the division I think is big for our team. It says a lot about the way we’ve played this whole year in different scenarios, different situations, different injuries. The team has continued to keep on winning and keep getting points. To have 102 points – more than we did last season – says a lot about our team. We still have some points to get to earn a spot.

On what the team is doing systematically that’s allowed them to go 7-3 in their last 10 games:
I think the one thing that we’ve really been able to add to our game is once we forecheck and once we’re in the offensive zone, when there is a turnover, the way we pursue the puck at that point in time has added to our team, made us difficult to play against, really given other teams some tough times. We’ve created turnovers, and when you create a turnover, the chance for offense is much higher than if it’s just a regulr\ar rush. It goes up about 10 percent. I think with that pursuit, with that puck pursuit from behind, it’s given our team the ability to be a dangerous team because of that turnover we create and that puck pursuit we create. That’s been a big thing for us.





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

Jordan Staal

On finishing strong:
That’s definitely the way we want to step into this game, keep the ball rolling. We want to play the best hockey we can going into the playoffs. Every two points are big in the standings right now, so we want to win every game.

On if they are focusing for the game despite the buildup:
They have two games left in the season and we have a big stretch ahead for us. We want to play the way we want to play, do the right things and get the two points. We’ll worry about that instead of the past.

On the Islanders possibly beating the Flyers:
We want to win and hopefully they can help us out there.

On gearing up for the postseason:
We’re itching to get going in the playoffs. We have to go through these games. It’s a big part of trying to keep focused and get everyone going. We want to do the best that we can in these games to get ready for the playoffs. 

On cementing home-ice advantage with a win tonight:
That would be nice. It’s a big thing for our team. We want to start off at home. Hopefully we can get two points to seal that deal.




Chris Kunitz

On balancing a strong finish and getting ready for the playoffs:
You want to be as successful as you can and get as hot going into the playoffs as you can. There is still a window to catch Philly if we play well and they don’t pick up some points. We still have to worry about a team behind us trying to catch us. There is a lot on the line every night.

On playing teams that are out of the playoffs:
They’re a little tricky. They’re unpredictable in the way they're going to play. If we stick to our style and take some of their will away with how they compete knowing there are only a few games left. It gets tough. In Florida we got on them early and they scored a couple quick goals and got some confidence. It’s dangerous with guys playing for jobs and contracts.

On the PP success against the Islanders:
I don’t know. I didn’t play in the last game against these guys. I don’t remember much of it. When we are successful we are putting pucks to the net and getting rebounds. Maybe this is a team that we like to be going around and have a little extra edge to play against. It’s something we have to get back going for the playoffs.

On cementing home-ice advantage with a win tonight:
It’s really important. Our fans are a great asset to have in a game to get you that emotion when it’s lacking or in a lull in the game. It’s an important emotional push for your team. It’s nice to have home-ice advantage in case you need that for a seventh game.




Zbynek Michalek

On the PP having success against the Islanders:
Against certain teams our power play is better than against other teams. I don’t know what the reason is. Lately we’re trying to keep it simple because our power play is struggling. We’re keeping it simple and putting pucks on net. We’ll do the same thing tonight and hope to have the same success on the power play against this team.

On his work on the PP with his shooting mentality:
That’s why they put me on the power play. It was struggling and we weren’t getting many shots. I’m there to shoot the puck. That’s what I try to do. I keep it simple and try to get the puck to the net. We have three guys around the net to get rebounds. That’s what we’re trying to do.

On defending the Islanders:
They are a talented team. We know it’s going to be a tough game even though they’re not making the playoffs. They’re playing for next year. They’re a young team and dangerous. They have a lot of skill up front. We need to play our game. It’s not easy. We have a lot to play for. We have to make sure we’re ready to play from the first minute and just play our game.



Fearless leader: Sam Kasan



11:55 AM:
The Pens itching to get onto the ice for their skate...


Adams and Godard just chilaxin' in the seats while they wait for the Zamboni to get off...


Tanger stuck? (left); the guys gathered (right)


Neal cracking up (left); Max making his way out (right)



11:42 AM:
The Pens are working in their line combos at Nassau Coliseum. From the skate, it looks like Eric Godard may be in the lineup in place of Chris Conner. Here is a look at the lines:

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



11:28 AM:
The Pens are filtering onto the ice for their morning skate. Everybody that skated Thursday is on the ice. Nick Johnson is on the ice for his first practice with the team since sustaining a concussion in late February. Sidney Crosby and Matt Cooke are skating with the team as well.



10:49 AM:
The Islanders are in the midst of their morning skate. Here's the photographic evidence:








Al Montoya (left); Rick DiPietro using a wooden stick (right)



10:46 AM:
This weekend is my first real road trip with the team, as my previous venture to Detroit last month didn't really count (as I am a born and raised Michigander). So legendary Penguins broadcaster Mike Lange has kindly taken me under his wing and is showing me the ropes this weekend. But he did give me a little friendly reminder of my status when he handed me my folder with the game notes this morning:





10:00 AM:
Good morning from New York! We're on the first leg of the Penguins' final regular-season road trip, as we arrived in Long Island Thursday afternoon following practice. Tonight Pittsburgh will play the first of their last two regular-season games starting with the Islanders, who they haven't seen since their penalty-filled meeting on Feb. 11 here in this same city. I can't believe we're already at games 81 and 82.

The Islanders – who have been out of playoff contention for a while – have been struggling as of late, dropping five of their last six decisions. The Penguins, on the other hand, are on a bit of a roll, as they've won two games in a row and have seven players on active point streaks.

To top it off, this game is brimming with meaning for Pittsburgh, as any combination of two points earned by them or ceded by Tampa Bay means the Pens will cement home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. A win would also keep the Pens in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title, as they're just one point behind first-place Philadelphia.

The bus is leaving for Nassau Coliseum in about 15 minutes, so stay tuned for info and photos throughout the day. I promise I'll do my best to live up to the standards set by Sam Kasan's Penguins Reports from the road.
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