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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Winnipeg

Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 9:37 AM / Penguins Report
Pittsburgh Penguins





3:38 PM:
Legendary broadcaster Mike Lange discusses his famous catch phrases. My personal favorite is pretty obvious: Buy Sam a drink and get his dog one, too!



--Sam Kasan



3:35 PM:
Here's a look at the best plays from last week.



--Sam Kasan



3:32 PM:
Episode 7 of "In the Room" was released today. It charts the trade deadline and the big 2-0 win against the Rangers that sparked their 11-game winning streak. The next episode will air Friday. For some past episodes click here.




--Sam Kasan



1:27 PM:
Steve Mears goes over all the developments from this morning's skate in the Verizon Game Day Report.




--Sam Kasan



12:26 PM:
The Jets just finished up their morning skate...







--Sam Kasan



12:17 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On the Winnipeg Jets:
They’re four points behind the Capitals for the eighth spot. Battling for their lives. Playing that way. They’ve been in some really hard-fought games and coming on the road where their record has not been as good, they need to win some road games to make sure they keep pace and try to catch Washington. So it’s that type of game for them. I think when you look at their team, the big difference between the road and home – minus the fans – is the special teams. They’re not as good on the road and that’s been a big factor for them. It’s always a key in the game and it will be a key in tonight’s game as well for our team. Their top line of (Andrew) Ladd, (Bryan) Little and (Blake) Wheeler probably doesn’t get enough credit for how they’re playing. In the games we’ve played Wheeler has been outstanding, very dangerous and dominating. Both on the rush and in the offensive zone, that line has been very good. We haven’t seen Evander Kane in all of the games we’ve played, but he leads their team with 28 goals. Andrew Ladd has 24 goals, so they’re getting some goals there. Then their defense is really a factor in the game, maybe as much as any defense in the league, activating in the offensive zone. (Tobias) Enstrom and Dustin (Byfuglien) are active and the way they sometimes play four down low in the offensive zone will be a real factor tonight. Our success against them has been making them play defense versus letting them get to the offensive zone and being real effective there like they can be. That’s the type of game we’re expecting. I’m expecting (Ondrej) Pavelec in the net. He’s been outstanding, is real big and I think it’s been his best year. He’s really been a factor for them back there.

On if this is as good as he’s seen the Atlantic Division:
We feel like we’re always playing some of the best teams. Philly has been very good. We went to the Final two years in a row, Philly goes to the Final (the next year) and the Devils, with the exception of last year, have been the team that probably wins the most Atlantic Division titles with the seasons they’ve had. So we feel like it is a very tough grind night in and night out against the Atlantic Division. Right now, we think we can catch the Rangers. The Rangers have probably been the best, most consistent team in the East the whole year long. I’m sure Philly thinks they still can catch us. They probably think they can still be first in the conference and first in the division. It’s good hockey, good teams and it’s interesting to see where our division stacks up with the rest of the conference.

On if their last game against Philly is forgotten or is a motivation:
I certainly haven’t forgotten about it. I had a phone call from a friend in hockey who said, you know, we watched the game on TV and knowing how I probably felt and how we played through two periods and then giving up the two goals and losing in overtime, he said you have to look at it this way: you’ve gotten 23 out of the last 24 points. That was better then saying we got five out of six, I guess, because we wanted to go in there and beat Philly and we let that slip away. We got off our game a little bit in the third period. That’s what sits in the back of your throat and what sits with you about that game. It was a good road trip. We played hard and did a lot of good things. But that’s where that sits. I know we talked about it this morning leading into this game against a team we know is going to be playing an absolute playoff game for them. We’ll put that one behind us, but it’s not too far behind us.

On if Crosby or Letang will be responsible for carrying the puck on the power play to gain the zone:
Kris is the guy we would pass the puck to, and he was all year long. ‘Sid’ is the guy bringing the puck up the ice. What we never got to see was that it was the plan from the start of the season. It was always to have (Malkin), (Crosby) or (Sullivan) bring the puck up the ice. We didn’t get to see that a lot with (Crosby) doing it because he only played eight games. Sullivan’s done an outstanding job at it, so he’s been the primary guy bringing the puck up the ice. Malkin has brought it up 15 percent of the time. While it looks like something new, it’s what we planned from the beginning of the year.



--Michelle Crechiolo



11:59 AM:
Sounds heard around the locker room…

Brad Thiessen

On if his confidence has been raised after getting wins in his first two games:
I feel good about my game going into it. I’m excited to get another chance to play out there with the guys. It’s a tight race right now, so I’m looking forward to helping them get a few more points.

On if the speed is still the biggest factor at this level compared to the AHL:
I think speed and definitely guys are bigger, guys are playing in front of the net a little more. I think guys are really good with their sticks getting deflections and plays in tight. So the plays around the crease and the trap are a little bit different.

On his emotions going into the game against Winnipeg:
Definitely looking forward to it. Anytime I get a chance to play (in the NHL) is always exciting. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and helping the team get a win.

On what is most difficult about not playing regularly like he did in Wilkes-Barre:
Yeah, it’s a little different. I think when you are practicing with the elite players on this team it definitely helps out when you’re going against those guys at practice. You have to be on your toes and I think that helps me out a lot.

On if he’s gotten a look at the Jets:
Not really. I think we’ll have a chance to see what they are all about here. I’ll just kind of go off what (the Penguins) tell me.

On the Penguins having confidence in him to give him the start:
It’s nice that they have that confidence to be able to put me in. I’m ready. I’m looking forward to it.

On the opportunity to play in the NHL:
It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a few years playing in the American League waiting for this opportunity and now it’s here. It’s definitely been a great experience. I’ve been trying to show at every opportunity I do get that I can play at this level.

On how he keeps the nerves down:
I’m obviously anxious a little bit and a good kind of excitement. Once the game gets going, you’re focused on playing your game and you can pass those down.




Sidney Crosby

On how his legs feel after three games in four days:
I felt a little tired yesterday. It’s to be expected. But it’s good to have that feeling. We’re going to play a lot of games. It’s exciting, but at the same time, I’ve got to manage everything. I feel good.

On if there are any setbacks besides just being tired:
No. I feel really good. Really happy the way things have gone. So no setbacks.

On how tough it is playing a team fighting for their playoff lives:
You’re going to play a team that’s desperate, and for us, we need to win games. So we should have an element of desperation in our game too. From here on in they’re all big games. What we do doesn’t change, but obviously we have to know and expect that they’re going to come hard and be desperate.

On what he’s learned from playing with Cooke and Kennedy:
I don’t know if I’ve really learned anything. Everything there was to know, I think I knew coming in. I know that they work really hard. They go to those tough areas. ‘TK’ shoots the puck. ‘Cookie’ goes to the net hard. I don’t think there were any real surprises or secrets there. I think as the games have gone, we’ve generated some good chances and just want to keep building off that. I don’t think there are any surprises there. I think we all know what to expect.

On how his timing and rhythm is:
I feel good. Just want to start burying some chances. Other than that, they’ve been there and as a team, we’ve played really well. So it’s been easier coming in when everyone is playing so well and each line is clicking. It’s gone pretty much the way I expected.

On the last game and the way it ended:
I think we learned something there. Obviously we’ve got to make sure we’re getting better here, especially down the stretch. We’ll take lessons from that and move forward. I think the (road) trip as a whole was pretty good. Still don’t like losing. Whether it’s 0.9 seconds or regulation, it’s never fun losing. But it’s something that happens sometimes and we’ve just got to learn from it and move on.




Kris Letang

On how tough it is playing a team fighting for their playoff lives:
It’s a big challenge. They’re in the race with Washington to get that eighth seed and it’s their first year since the team moved. It’s important for them to make the playoffs. So they’re going to be desperate. They’re going to be strong on pucks. But it’s going to be a good challenge.

On how his legs feel after three games in four days:
They feel pretty good. It was a tough trip, three in four against those teams. It was a good road trip. Having the day off yesterday was good for everybody. This morning, the legs were going and we’re going to be ready for today.

On having some time to reflect on the loss in Philly and put it behind them:
It’s a tough loss, especially because we did a lot of good things in the game. Not getting into a tie with the Rangers was bad, too. But at the same time, we had a day off and we have to focus on the Winnipeg Jets tonight because they’re going to be hard and it’s going to be a tough game.

On how he’s seen Brad Thiessen grow as a goalie:
Even his first start, he was pretty confident in the net. He looked pretty comfortable there. I think he has been playing really well with the start that he had. I’m looking forward to seeing him in the net tonight.


Zbynek Michalek

On the importance of the game against the Jets:
Obviously, it’s a big game for both teams. Both teams have a lot to play for and some of the games are playing at a high pace and everybody is playing their best. We can expect a really desperate team. They’re fighting for a playoff spot. They are a few points behind now so it’s do or die for them basically. We have to make sure we are ready to work. They are a team with a lot of speed so we have to make sure we are ready to go and play from the first minute. 

On if the Jets coming off a loss makes them more dangerous coming into this game:
This time of year, like I said, they are a desperate team trying to win every single game. I’m sure they are going to be even more desperate after a game like they had last time when they blew the lead. The same thing goes for us. We let a goal slip away from us too and we want to make sure we come back here and play a strong Pittsburgh Penguins game. 

--Michelle Crechiolo & Brittany Goncar



11:50 AM:
Pens pics...


Players get together (left); Cooke learns to balance on skate (right)


Kunitz and Crosby speak with no words (left); Letang and Orpik: BFFs for life (right)


The Harvard stare (left); Thiessen gets the nod between the pipes (right)



11:46 AM:
TWEET OF THE DAY...

     "@PensInsideScoop: #Pens starting Brad Thiessen in goal -SK" he hasn't lost in his nhl career"

                                                           @cwilley28

--Sam Kasan




11:32 AM:
Brad Thiessen will be the starting goaltender for the Pens in tonight's game.

Head coach Dan Bylsma had a few other udpates. Goalie Brent Johnson skated before practice for the first time in his rehab. Joe Vitale is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

"Brent Johnson was back on the ice today for the first time in his rehab, so it was good to see him back on the ice," Bylsma said. "We’ll see how he progresses here. Could get back to practice this week. Joe Vitale is day-to-day. Upper body."

--Sam Kasan



10:52 AM:
Pens spent a portion of the morning skate working on the power play.

The first unit remained the same: Crosby on the point, Letang and Malkin near the halfwalls and Kunitz and Neal down low.

The second unit consisted of Niskanen on the point, Sullivan and Staal near the halfwalls and Cooke and Kennedy down low.

After working the 5-on-4 power play for a while, the units then worked on the 5-on-3 for a bit.


Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Neal and Kunitz

--Michelle Crechiolo



10:36 AM:
The Pens used the following lines at the morning skate...

Kunitz-Malkin-Neal
Sullivan-Staal-Dupuis
Cooke-Crosby-Kennedy
Tangradi-Adams-Asham

Letang-Martin
Orpik-Michalek
Niskanen-Engelland

Note: Jeffrey and Park skated with assistant coach Tony Granato. Ben Lovejoy didn't participate in rushes.

--Sam Kasan



10:30 AM:
The Pens are gathering at center ice, ready to start the morning skate. The only missing players are forward Joe Vitale and goalie Brent Johnson, both are out with undisclosed injuries.

--Sam Kasan



10:15 AM:
Pens radio host Bob Grove takes a look back at one of the most dramatic games in team history: Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final in Detroit. If you'll recall, the Pens trailed by one goal with less than one minute left in the third period. And then history took its course...




--Sam Kasan



10:10 AM:
As noted, this is a critical game for the Jets as they make a late push for a postseason berth. They're coming off a disappointing loss to Carolina on Sunday, 4-3, after holding a third-period lead. For more on what to watch for in tonight's matchup click here.





--Sam Kasan



10:05 AM:
One of the best stories of the season so far has been the play of winger Matt Cooke. Not only does he have a new career high with 16 goals, but he's remained a physical presence while taking far fewer penalties.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Cooke for the 2012 Bill Masterton Award – given “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

But the biggest difference between Cooke’s on-ice play this season has been his ability to play a more controlled, disciplined style.

... With a lot of film study and discussions with the coaching staff, Cooke slowly began to remold his game.

“It’s an ongoing process for me. It was a different process for me,” Cooke said candidly. “It’s never going to be over with. I’m honored. I’m thankful that I’ve had the support I’ve had from my teammates, the coaching staff, management, ownership, the fans, and my family, first and foremost. Their help and patience and commitment to me has helped.”


Full story here.


(Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan



10:00 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! The Pens will hit the ice at 10:30 a.m. for a morning skate. Tonight they'll battle the Winnipeg Jets.

It will be a crucial game in the standings for both teams. Pittsburgh is three points behind the New York Rangers for the division/conference lead. The Pens do have a game in hand on New York, but would lose any tie-breaker. So Pittsburgh must finish ahead in points. The Jets are sitting in 10th place, four points out from the eighth seed. So a big two points on the line tonight.

---

Today we'll open the day with a local musician, William Fitzsimmons. He was born in Pittsburgh and recorded his first two albums in his hometown. Fitzsimmons is very singer songwriter with whispered vocals. Here is a remix of his song "I Don't Feel It Anymore."

And his beard is epic. Anyways, enjoy.



--Sam Kasan
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