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Penguins Report: 10/4/11

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 9:45 AM / Penguins Report
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins Report: 10\/4\/11


  • Maintenance day for Staal, who was not on the ice for practice (11:50 AM).
  • Update on Orpik from Bylsma and Brooks himself; the D pairings IF Orpik does not play Thursday (12:45 PM).
  • Mears and I bring you today's Pens Insider (3:04 PM).
  • Line combos (10:03 AM).
  • Malkin discusses Pens-Caps initiative to help KHL families (1:34 PM).
  • Bylsma speaks on a variety of topics, including Morrow (1:55 PM).
  • Crosby, Kennedy and Cooke spit knowledge (1:26 PM).
  • Re-visiting Monday's roster moves (9:45 AM).
  • Pics of the guys at work before hitting the road (10:32 AM)
  • I heard Vancouver is an awesome place to visit (9:30 AM).



3:04 PM:
Here's today's edition of Pens Insider, where Steve Mears talks smoothly and effortlessly about the big news from the past few days and I just try to keep up. Love the look I'm giving him in the still shot for this video...classic, to say the least...





1:55 PM:
A lengthy version of coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

Injury updates:
We saw Brooks Orpik skating on the ice today and participating in a full practice, so he was out there for that. There hasn’t been a decision made on whether he’ll be playing or not (on Thursday). Today was just a maintenance day for Jordan Staal. I fully expect him back on the ice (Wednesday). James Neal had an appointment that he had to take care of, so he was dismissed from practice right at the very end. He was out there the whole time other than the shootout.

On who can bring an east-west presence to the power play besides Steve Sullivan:
I’m not sure I would describe it as east-west, but I think you’re accurate in describing a player or an attribute of our power play that is more of a read-and-react, playmaking type of player. That’s both bringing the puck up the ice and in-zone, making plays and reading that situation, breaking teams down, being a real passer and passing the puck with the intent of setting up a shooter or setting up a scoring chance. It hasn’t been something we’ve had. I think right now, Steve Sullivan looks to be the guy who’s able to do that for us and can bring that. We saw him bringing the puck up the ice in Detroit and do that very well, reading the play and reading the forecheck within our breakout and break-in. He did a real good job with that, as well as moving the puck around to create scoring chances in the offensive zone.

On if there is anybody else who can do that:
I don’t think necessarily as a strength. I think Mark Letestu probably showed that a little bit last year. Our other guys, their attributes are more along the lines of (Tyler Kennedy)’s, who is an attacking/shooting guy. Kris Letang is an attacking guy. Paul Martin might be the best guy on the back end for doing that for our power play. (Evgeni Malkin) and (Sidney Crosby) are more of attacking/shooting guys and we have net-front guys in (Chris) Kunitz and Neal.

On Sullivan playing with Malkin and/or Crosby:
I think everyone would clamor to be on Geno or Sid’s line or be on the ice with them at any given time. But I can tell you that, just referencing myself, I couldn’t keep up physically and mentally with Sid and Geno. Even though I would like to play with them, I couldn’t keep up if I was on their line. I think Sullivan has a very unique hockey sense and is a real smart player. He has the ability to read other people and their tendencies. He has shown in a very short period of time the ability to play with Geno. He’s been able to read that and play and feed off that – and also complement what Geno does so well. He has brought that both five-on-five and on the power play up to this point.

On their decision not to keep Joseph Morrow and what they said to him:
Whether ‘Brooksy’ starts the season or doesn’t start the season, Joe was not going to be in our top six on opening night. Whenever Brooksy is healthy, obviously he’s going to be in the top six. Then one of those guys in the top six is going to be the seventh defenseman. It’s not a situation for an 18-year-old kid to be a seventh guy, maybe even be a sixth guy. On the flip side of that, with his play and with his ability and what he showed here in camp with the opportunity, he put himself right up there in that discussion of being able to play and being an effective player. He earned at least two exhibition games extra from what we had originally scheduled him with his play. From what he did in the Detroit game early on, he was really effective and really showed his skating ability and his shot. He had a lot of poise on the ice, was able to make good, quick plays and was able to defend. He showed a little physical side to it as well. He earned a lot more than we had planned. He put himself in the mix, especially considering we had some injuries and Brooksy may or may not be able to start the season. That put him right in the mix as a guy who could play for us. But just as an 18-year-old on our team, it just wasn’t going to work out for him this year.

On how much of a luxury it is to have all 7 defensemen he finished the season with back this year:
Last year at this time, I was really happy about breaking in two new defensemen because they were really good players that we got in Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. But having had our seven together for a year, with their experience playing together and being on the same page in how we play, I think, as a seven, we’re way ahead of where we were last year at this time. I think the expectation of how we play and some of the details that we expect in asking of them, we’re on the same page. They understand clearly and they’re ready to go with that right now. So that’s a big thing for us. I think we think we can be a much better team defensively. We were good last year, but we think we can be much better in that regard. We can be a factor being able to defend and our seven D are a big part of that, especially with being on the same page and knowing what to do.

On if the early Western Canada road trip is an advantage for Marc-Andre Fleury:
I think for Marc, last training camp was a bit like previous training camps that I’ve seen – very good. He didn’t start particularly well. This camp was not as sharp. He still got some good work in, got some good time in net, but was not as sharp. Marc’s a good goalie; he’s a talented guy and has played in a number of big games and playoff games. Last year in the regular season he was a big factor for us. He’s got that confidence in his abilities and he’s got to get in there and be ready to do that again for us. Starting on the road, I think it is advantageous to go have a road trip and be as a team. It’s a little bit longer I suppose. You might not be as excited about that trip if it was February, March. We’re pretty excited to start against Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton, starting out in Western Canada. It’s time for our guys to get away together. First time as a team we’ll be getting on a plane to spend six days together, get in the trenches, play some hockey, and also being on a road trip and bonding in that regard. I thought that. Last night my wife thought that was a good idea too.

On what goes into the coaches’ evaluations at the end of each year:
Talking about building an atmosphere for the team to be able to get better, learn, understand their game and how to get better. The atmosphere needed to be comfortable to do that. For an individual to understand how to get the most out of their game, how to get the most out of their foundation, what they bring to the team, and the challenge to continually get better – it’s a different challenge every year for different teams. You might be expecting to win a Stanley Cup. You might be thinking the playoffs are a good thing so you’re trying to provide that environment, the challenge to do it and the tools necessary to do it both through practice and the environment that you establish with the team. Those are my broad goals for the team. We go through that with the coaches, we go through that with the staff and we go through that individually and as a team for what we think we did well and what we didn’t do well. As far as bringing that to training camp, now you come in with a goal that’s at that stage – foundation, habits, system, and the necessary work to be ready for the season. We had a very good training camp. We got a lot of work in. The details and the habits for our team are starting to be there. The picture of making it all come together is still in the developing process. Individually, players are different in camp and you evaluate them differently. Joey Vitale had an outstanding camp. He came out here trying to make a hockey team and was excellent almost every day. With Paul Martin, he was pretty sure he was going to be on this team. So he comes in with a little different mindset detail-wise and system-wise, being comfortable and being ready to go for Vancouver. That’s the mindset for a guy like Paul Martin. As a staff we did some good things. There are still some things we think can still get better at going into the first day here.



Power-play goal: Justin Criado



1:34 PM:
This morning, the Pens and the Capitals – two of the NHL's biggest rivals – announced that they were teaming up for a great cause at their Oct. 13 game here at CONSOL Energy Center.

Commemorative Lokomotiv patch
They announced a joint effort to raise money for the families of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the KHL team that perished in a plane crash Sept. 7 in Russia. Pens and Caps players will wear jerseys with commemorative Lokomotiv patches at the game, then autograph the game-worn and game-issued jerseys afterward and auction them off at nhl.com. All proceeds will benefit the Lokomotiv players’ children and families.

Two of Russia's greatest players in the NHL today – our own Evgeni Malkin and Washington's Alex Ovechkin – will participate in a ceremonial opening faceoff.

Here's what Geno had to say about the fundraiser (click here for the full story):

On raising money for the Lokomotiv victims’ families:
We’re selling team jerseys with autographs and the money will go to Russian charity for the Yaroslavl.

On Russian NHLers like himself and Ovechkin doing something for the families:
We were born in Russia. We knew those guys and played with those guys with the national team. We need to help their families.

On if he came up with the idea:
Not me, it’s the whole team, the Pittsburgh organization. We talked to Ray (Shero) and we had a couple ideas to sell bracelets and jerseys. I played with the guys in the plane crash. I knew them. It was all of our idea.

On if he reached out to Ovechkin for the idea:
I know Alex. We talked to him. We had ideas to sell jerseys Oct. 13 and do an auction.



Assist: Sam Kasan



1:26 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Sidney Crosby

On starting the season and coming back:
I’m looking forward to getting on the road and starting the season. I’m happy to be out there and when the time comes I’ll make sure I’m ready. To be honest, I’m just happy to be out there working hard. For a long time I wasn’t able to do that, so it’s just nice to be out there and going hard.

On if there’s a chance the alternate-colored helmet might come off on the road:
Probably not. I’m not going to see a doctor while I’m on the road so I wouldn’t expect that.

On going back to Vancouver after his success in the 2010 Winter Olympics:
It’ll be a little different watching, but still some great memories there. It’s nice just to be going with the team and starting a new season even if I’m not playing. It’s kind of a fresh start and we always look forward to that.

On Steve Sullivan’s power-play ability:
I think he’s going to help us a lot. He’s smart and can play a lot of different positions on the power play. He’s a right-handed shot, which is a luxury for us – we don’t always have a ton of right-handers. He brings a lot and on top of that he has a lot of experience too. He’s a good pickup for us and I look forward to seeing him out there.

On his anticipation of playing with James Neal:
I’m just looking forward to getting out there. I haven’t gotten the opportunity to play with him yet, so I watched him a lot and he’s a guy that can dominant the play out there. He’s a big guy, great shot and hopefully that time will be soon.

On the coaching staff handling the slew of injuries last year:
I think they’re just poised. They realize what they need to do and they prepare us accordingly. When we go out there, there’s no doubt in our minds we’re ready to play. We know what we’re going to see from the other team, and most of all that the things we focused on are going to pay off. I think there’s a lot of confidence there in what they do. I think the biggest thing in the situation you’re talking about is they carried the same message through adversity and that’s important when things are tough.

On if traveling to Western Canada to begin the season is an advantage:
Yeah, I think so. You got a new group together, so get on the road is always a good thing, to get the guys together. On top of that, sometimes this can be a grueling trip if it’s in November, December or in the middle of the season too. With it being early on everyone’s pretty geared to play. Should be no question that there’s a ton of energy. I think it certainly has its advantages.

On NHL Senior VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan using social media to send out video messages to the players:
So far I think it’s been pretty good. I think guys are getting explanations. There’s clarity there. They’re always going to be disputed. People are going to have different opinions. But I think for the most part they’re really trying to get that message out there and have everyone understand. I think the effort’s there and I think guys are going to benefit from that.

On how Evgeni Malkin has played so far:
He’s just really hungry. When he demands the puck like that, when he’s hungry like that, you can’t stop him. So we always like to see that. It’s fun to see when he’s dominating the play like that. Obviously it’s preseason, but even more so the fact that he wants it that bad in preseason – that’s a great sign for us.

On Malkin’s role in the Penguins-Capitals efforts to honor/benefit families of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl during their Oct. 13 game:
Geno knew some guys and family members and things like that that were involved with that, so we’re aware of what he’s doing and we’re behind him 100 percent. That’s a great thing they’re doing. We were all pretty saddened by that.

On the effects of such a tragic event has on a community:
You just try to help in any way you can – for us, for Geno, for those guys. They’re able to be a part of something, to help. That’s when you try to do, whatever it is. Even in that situation, I remember people taking in families from all over Europe and letting them stay there while they figured out what was going to happen. That’s just being a good neighbor, being a good person, trying to make sure you can help out in any way you can. As hockey players we have a pretty good opportunity to do that and they’re doing the most with it.

On how much he means to the game and his every move being followed:
I probably didn’t need this to happen in order to realize things are followed pretty closely. I think you’re always learning though. I don’t know if I was surprised, but there’s always things that happen and you just kind of react and learn. But you can have as much experience as you want or go through as many things as you want, but that’s life. You’re always kind of learning. I think you try to take away everything you can from each situation good or bad, and I tried to do that over the last eight months.




Tyler Kennedy

On starting the NHL season:
I’m just focused on helping the team. Just focus on working hard.

On being a top six forward:
It’s obviously nice to be top six, but I’ll play wherever. It’s a great team and I’m excited to be on it.

On continuing his power-play success from last year into this year:
I want to get out there and shoot the puck, make sure I get shots on net and have poise with the puck. That’s one of my biggest things, is just trying to shoot the puck and have shots on goal.

On if he’s trying to be more offensive as a top six forward:
No, I try to play my game no matter what. Coach doesn’t want me to change and neither do I.

On the first game at Vancouver:
It’s exciting to go up there especially two days early. You get to see the sights a little bit. It’s God’s country so it’ll be nice to see.


Matt Cooke

On the work the team accomplished through the preseason:
Preseason’s been a good time for us. I think we had some success. I don’t think our game was where we want it, but we haven’t played with a full lineup anyways. I think it’s time. We have a couple days here to get ready and get on to the regular season.

On if the road trip to Western Canada is an advantage being so early in the year:
I don’t think it matters. I mean the game’s the game and the travel’s the travel, and you’re not going to get away from it. It just so happens that we go to the Western Conference three times in one month. It makes it a tough month, but then it really doesn’t help.

On NHL Senior VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan's use of social media to educate players about certain offenses:
I think that social media is such a hot thing. Everyone’s trying to do it, follow it, whatever. I always said from day 1 that information, clarification and communication about situations is a good thing. We’re not just a bunch of dumb hockey players skating around chasing a puck. There’s some smarts that have to go into this game and any time you can add those three elements to touchy areas or new rules that’s a good thing.

On if players can learn through Shanahan’s use of Twitter:
I think so. I think that if you look at it the right way. You’re always going to have an opinion on whether or not the suspension is worthy or not, but I think they’re trying to help players as much as they can.

Shorthanded goal: Justin Criado



12:45 PM:
Bylsma also added that no decision has been made on whether defenseman Brooks Orpik will play on Thursday. Orpik, who is recovering from lower abdominal/hernia surgery on his right side that he underwent in July, skated with the team on Saturday in Detroit, skated with the non-game group on Sunday in Detroit and participated in a full practice today at CONSOL.

"We saw Brooks Orpik skating on the ice today and participating in a full practice, so he was out there for that," Bylsma said. "There hasn’t been a decision made on whether he’ll be playing or not (on Thursday)."

However, if Orpik is not ready to go, Bylsma has his pairings set up if that proves to be the case. They would look like this:

Letang-Engelland
Martin-Michalek
Niskanen-Lovejoy

Said Bylsma: "Letang will play the left side if Orpik is not able to go. Niskanen will play the left side as well. Martin and Michalek would be together. That’s who would be playing the left sides, 7, 58 and 2. Lovejoy and Engelland would be playing the right side. Right now, it would be Engelland with Letang and Niskanen with Lovejoy. That’s if Brooks is not going to be in the lineup."

Here's what Brooks had to say:

On if he’ll play Thursday against Vancouver:
I don’t really know. I’m just trying to feel better everyday when I get out there. It seems like it’s moving in the right direction.

On having gone through this injury before helping him now:
In the past I just tried to play through. It’s tough. There are certain injuries you can play through and you won’t harm yourself. There are ones where you can’t play through. It won’t get better. I’m just trying to go smarter.

On if it’s conditioning:
I think I just got a little too aggressive with it. I’m trying to ease into it. I only skated a couple times at home before I came here. The first day I could have just jumped right in with the speed of guys that have been skating for a month. That was probably not the smartest thing.





11:50 AM:
Pens coach Bylsma said today was "just a maintenance day for Jordan Staal. I fully expect him back on the ice (Wednesday)."

In addition, forward James Neal left the ice a bit early, but Bylsma assured there was nothing to worry about.

"James Neal had an appointment that he had to take care of, so he was dismissed from practice right at the very end. He was out there the whole time other than the shootout," Bylsma said.



10:32 AM:
Photographic evidence of the guys at work...


Group shot (left); Sid speeding down the ice (right)


Duper doing some nifty moves with a puck (left); Michalek surrounded by them (right)


A little stretch action (left); what do you call three guys dressed in yellow? (right)


@malkin71_ (left); @Sullivan26 and @malkin71_ (right)





10:03 AM:
Here are how the line combos shake down:

Sullivan-Malkin-Neal
Kunitz-Letestu-Kennedy
Cooke-Park-Dupuis
Asham-Vitale-Adams
Jeffrey-Crosby-MacIntyre



10:01 AM:
Jordan Staal is the only player on the active roster not on the ice. Both Crosby and Jeffrey are skating with the team. Sid is still wearing his alternate-colored helmet to signify non-contact. Today he is wearing white while the rest of the team is wearing black.



9:57 AM:
Most of the players have gotten onto the ice. They're wearing color-coded jerseys again. Score!!!



9:45 AM:
On Monday, the Pens trimmed their active roster down to 23 players (14 forwards, 7 defensemen, 2 goalies). Click here for the full list.

Pens captain Sidney Crosby was placed on injured reserve, but according to Pens GM Ray Shero, he can be removed at any time because his injury occurred last season. He won't have to wait the usual seven days before coming off.

Also placed on IR were forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Petersen and defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Boris Valabik.

Defenseman Joseph Morrow was returned to his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

Forward Jason Williams and defenseman Alexandre Picard were assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and must clear waivers by noon today in order to report to WBS.



9:30 AM:
Hello from Pittsburgh! The Penguins are scheduled for a 10 a.m. skate here at CONSOL Energy Center before embarking on their Western Canada road trip, where they’ll make stops to see three Western Conference teams – Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The Pens’ season opener against the Canucks isn’t until 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, but the team is flying out a few days early in order to get a couple of practice sessions at Rogers Arena before the big day.

That means they get to spend three days in the beautiful city of Vancouver, which I’ve heard is one of best places to visit, ever. It’s repeatedly voted as one of the world’s most livable cities by the Economist based on environment, health care, culture and infrastructure.

This year it was ranked No. 3 (after Melbourne and Vienna) after being listed as No. 1 every year since 2002. (Don’t worry, Pittsburgh is ranked the most livable U.S. city at No. 30). I’ll be looking forward to seeing Sam Kasan’s reports from the road this week, as you all should be too!
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