Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Nashville
Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 9:47 AM ET / Penguins Report
- Bylsma provides lineup updates (11:24 AM).
- Radulov will play against Pens (12:11 PM).
- Malkin on the ice; 7 Pens missing from optional skate (10:30 AM).
- Tonight's game will be on ROOT SPORTS, NHL Network (10:43 AM).
- Game Day Report (1:04 PM).
- Coming to America: Radulov (12:50 PM).
- What to watch for: Pens-Preds (10:04 AM).
- Sullivan on facing his former squad (12:40 PM).
- Pens wearing No. 3 tonight for Wade Belak (2:51 PM).
- Malkin & Radulov are besties since childhood (12:53 PM).
- Coach Bylsma on clinching, Neal & more (12:26 PM).
- Crosby talks shop (12:43 PM).
- Pens top NHL in scoring (10:14 AM).
- Coach Trotz talks shop (1:13 PM).
- Pens pics (11:46 AM).
- Preds pics (12:46 PM).
- “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine…” (10:00 AM).
Steve Sullivan has worn a #3 sticker on his helmet all season in honor of Predators teammate Wade Belak, who passed away on Aug. 31, 2011. Tonight, his Pens teammates will join him in wearing #3 stickers on their helmets in remembrance of Belak. (Thanks to Jen Bullano of @PensPRLady for the photo).
Coachspeak with Barry Trotz…
On Alexander Radulov:
He’s had a lot of travel. He lives eight or nine time zones away. I’m not going to judge him on what happens today. He said he’s enthused about getting back and just getting a feel for the NHL. If he can give us some good minutes tonight, and again we’ll just see where he is condition wise and speed wise and all that. He’s going to go in, so it’s good.
On if he’s playing with Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand:
The thought is he’ll start with (Patric Hornqvist) and David Legwand. We’ll adjust as the games goes on if needed.
On Hal Gill:
Hal Gill is a popular guy with us. He’s one of those good pros. I know when he was with the Penguins here, he was a defensive guy. He’s a shot blocker. He’s a penalty killer. He’s just a good pro and you can never have enough of those guys around. We have a young team. We have gotten a lot older since the trade deadline. Getting a guy like Hal Gill, he’s experienced and he’s just a great pro. We’ll lean on him. I suspect how he was in Pittsburgh and in the locker room. He’s the same guy in our locker room and we are happy to have him.
On how much he will monitor Alexander Radulov’s minutes tonight:
We’ll just watch him. I don’t want to put him at risk as a player. When he’s getting real tired, obviously I’m going to pull him back. We’ll just have dialogue. 'Rad' said let's just talk on the bench. And he says, you’ll see when I’m dying out. You’ll see that and just make sure we talk. That’s all.
On his impression of the Pens:
It’s funny. I watched last game. Right now they are on top of their game. They’re oozing with confidence. They’ve got a good goalie. They’ve got mobile defense. Their forwards are fast and dynamic. Really, you have to stay out of the penalty box, No. 1. You have to play well without the puck. Just like all good teams, Detroit has been the standard out West for a number of years. One thing we learned, if you give them too much respect, you give them too much time and space. When you give them too much time and space, especially a skilled team like the Penguins, you’re going to be watching the puck and they are going to be throwing it around all night. We have to make sure we check well. We have to make sure we are going at people hard and taking away time and space. And just make sure that we are disciplined and checking with our feet. If we do that, we’ve had good success against teams like Detroit that have a high level of skill up front and some dynamic game changers. We can handle that. If we don’t check well, then we don’t have the puck all night. We just have to make sure we do the right things as a group and not stand and watch. One of the biggest fears, you got some players like Radulov, I don’t want us just standing and watching, ‘let’s see what ‘Rad’ does here.' We have to work as a group of five. That’s the only way you play good teams in this league.
Lots going on here in Pittsburgh today. Mearsy has it all wrapped up for you in the Verizon Game Day Report.
As the media gathered around Radulov when he came out of the locker room to speak, Pens center Evgeni Malkin walked by and the two had a friendly exchange before the interview began. Radulov went into more detail on his relationship with Malkin, his teammate on the Russian national team.
"He’s a good friend of mine because we are the same age. We were playing against each other as kids, so I’ve known him a long, long time. We have a good relationship. While he was playing here and I was playing there, we’d call each other sometimes. In the summer, I saw him a lot. He’s great. He’s really great. Last season, he had injuries. He missed a lot of the season. But this year, he’s been on fire. He is a fantastic player is what I can say."
We've diverted our focus over to the Predators for a bit with Barry Trotz confirming that Radulov will make his return to the NHL tonight. We were able to speak with Radulov following morning skate. Here's what he had to say...
On if he is excited to play tonight:
It’s a little hard because the time (change) makes a difference. It’s not an excuse. Tonight I’m starting and we’ll keep going.
On how his travel was over the last few days:
Terrible, but it’s in the past. I’m here right now. I’m happy to be here. I just need to get on the ice, do my best and help my team to win. That’s my goal.
On the pressure from the buildup surrounding his return:
I’m just trying to not focus on that. I’m trying to get ready, prepare myself. It was a long season in Russia and right now I’m here. It’s been four years since when I was playing here. I need to prove to myself first that I can do it here. That’s it probably. The team is good and I just want to have fun here and play for the Predators and hopefully win something.
On if he has regrets from leaving the team four years ago:
I don’t want to talk about it. It’s in the past. I’m here right now. I’m happy to be here. What happened in the past is in the past.
On the difference between the KHL and NHL:
It’s a big difference between the two leagues. People say they are competing. Some of the rules are different. The game is different. I don’t think it’s right to compare because here is here. They play more of a Canadian style, more physical, a lot of shooting. That’s the difference. I can’t say which is better. I can only say I’m here now.
Preds morning skate...
Radulov (left); Pekka Rinne (right)
Former Pen Hal Gill (Skillsy)
We also spoke with Pens captain Sidney Crosby...
On the depth of the Nashville Predators:
I they’re good all the way through the lineup. They have a lot of depth and strong goaltending. They’re a team that’s playing well. We want to be a bit better than we were last game. I expect a much tighter game. I ‘m sure both teams are looking at this as a big game.
On Pekka Rinne:
He covers a lot of net and is pretty athletic. That’s a good combination to have. We’re pretty confident in our goalie as well. I’m sure they look forward to those challenges as goalies. I’m sure they’ll both be up for it.
On Nashville’s well-rounded lineup:
Any team that has success is going to have that. We’re going to test it all the way through here tonight from the rear area. Like I said, we feel like we can play better than we did last game (Tuesday against the Jets) and we are looking to do that here tonight.
On the return of Alexander Radulov:
I think we know a little bit about him. A lot of us have probably played against him at some point. He’s really skilled, fast, loves to shoot the puck. I think nowadays everyone should be aware of what guys are going to do and have some idea of that. As for the way we play, I don’t think it’s going to change anything we do. We obviously have to be aware of him because he’s a dangerous player out there.
On the importance of chasing the Rangers:
I think if anything, you just want to make sure you’re playing well. The wins and that stuff will kind of take care of itself. I think you have to make sure that you’re doing the right things and you’re building good habits. We got two points last game, but I don’t know if we played the right way. You can’t play that way in the playoffs and expect to have success consistently. I think their focus is going to be on playing the right way. We know if we do that we give ourselves a chance to win every night. I think it’s going to be more just on what we are doing out there.
We spoke with Steve Sullivan following the morning skate, who played for the Predators from 2004-11. Sullivan, who scored 100 goals and 263 points in 317 regular-season games with Nashville, will be facing his former team for the first time tonight since coming to Pittsburgh. Here's what he had to say...
On playing his old team:
It’s always exciting when you get to face your former teammates for the first time. A lot of familiar faces over there when I came in this morning. Had a little chitchat with the coaching staff and the training staff. It’s an exciting day, for sure.
On if the Predators have changed much:
A little bit of the personnel has changed. They’ve added some new faces. Pre-scouting them, it doesn’t seem like they’ve changed their style very much. They’ve been successful with it, so I don’t see why they would change it.
On the Predators bolstering their defense:
They have. When you have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and two Norris candidates back there, you’re going to key on defense first. That’s how they win hockey games and how they pride themselves on winning hockey games. They have definitely shored that up.
On what he knows about Radulov:
He’s an extreme talent. Very offensive. He’s a game changer with one play. He’s a very exciting hockey player. I didn’t get a chance to play with him very much. Only probably about 30-40 games. I was injured when he was there. But from what I remember, he’s a threat every time he touches the puck.
On whether it will be a difficult transition for Radulov from the KHL to the NHL:
I don’t think it will be tough for him. I think when you’re the best over there, you can make that transition very easily. I think he’s also played a lot of international hockey with some of the best players in the world. He’s played in the Olympics. He knows the league. He knows all the players. I think he was a big part of the Russian team and Russian hockey federation, so he’s used to playing with some high-end talent.
On if there’s a now-or-never mentality in Nashville:
I don’t think it’s now or never, but I think they’ve made it very clear that they consider themselves the elite of the West and they think they’ve got a very good chance. They’ve got high expectations of wanting to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final. I think by making those moves, that’s how it looks to the rest of us.
Predators coach Barry Trotz had some kind words about his former player following Nashville's morning skate...
Coming to Pittsburgh I thought was a really good move. He really put the effort in during the summer. He’s got his legs back and has played pretty well for the Penguins. He stayed healthy. Last year was a tough year for him. He got nicked up so many times. Toward the end of the year he was really beat up with groin surgery and fracture in his face, the hand when he blocked a shot. He was running on fumes toward the end of the year. It was good to see him healthy and playing well. He plays a very intelligent game, which fits in with the Penguins’ speed and skill. He’s enjoying it here. He said he loves his time so far here with his family. He still has a house in Nashville. He’ll probably retire there. We miss him. At the same time it’s been a really good fit for Sullivan and the Penguins. He’s a fun player to watch. We had him for a number of years. He’s a fan favorite.
--Michelle Crechiolo and Sam Kasan
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…
I’m excited to see a team that we don’t see very often. They’re a very good team with the number of points they have, 92. I believe (Alexander Radulov) will be in the lineup tonight. We’re dealing with a team that plays very consistently throughout their lineup. They have the record for most guys with 10 goals or more. Their goaltender Pekke Rinne is excellent. Their defensive pairing, Shea Weber and (Ryan) Suter, we don’t see them very much but hear a lot about them. (Mike) Fisher is playing really well. (Patric) Hornqvist has 24 goals and is leading their team. They have six players with over 40 points and the No. 1 power play in the league, which will be a test for our penalty killing tonight.
On clinching the playoffs:
At the beginning of the year it’s not a stated goal to make the playoffs. One of our goals is to win the Stanley Cup so we know we have to make the playoffs. Getting into the playoffs is a big deal. It’s not to be overlooked. When and if that number goes to zero and we know we’re in the playoffs and put an X by our name (in the standings). It’s a big deal. It’s not a goal that we have. It’s not something we talk about with our players. We think we can still get first in the division and conference. It’s still where we want to be. We still have to play the Rangers, but making the playoffs is a big deal. When that happens there will be congratulations going around. It’s not to be overlooked.
On if the team discussed winning the President’s Trophy:
Not at all.
On James Neal’s play impacting the team’s play:
When you look at a record and see 45 wins you overlook different parts of the season. That would certainly be the first 20 games with how we started the season, the number of games we played, the road trips that we had. That was a tough schedule. We had different injuries to different players - without Sidney (Crosby) and (Evgeni Malkin). There were different defensemen out of the lineup as well. It was some tough sledding for our team. We battled hard for a lot of wins and a lot of points. We were out in front there and that was with those injuries. That is overlooked at this point in time. In the beginning of the year there were a lot of great efforts from our team and the one thing we’ll look back and talk about what our team did really well was battling extremely hard to get wins, on the road, with a tough schedule, and James Neal getting off to a good jump early in October and November was a big part of our power-play success and team success as well.
On Hal Gill:
Hal was a big, big leader in our dressing room when it came to our team, how we wanted to play and how we were going to play and how we responded. Hal is light hearted. He’s a great human being. He’s also a guy that stepped up in a leadership way in how we needed to play. That wasn’t always the nicest thing. One story in particular, that I won’t share, he was the person that stood up and said this is the way we need our team to play. He was a big part of the leadership in our dressing room in the last 25 games and into the playoffs. People asked me about Hal Gill a month ago and when you win with a player or teammate you have a soft spot. That’s what Hal Gill was for our team. That’s what I see when I see that big No. 75 on the game tape, even though he’s wearing that yellow jersey.
On the team leading in goals:
We don’t have team goals for putting the puck in the net. We have them for keeping it out of the net. The fact that we’re very good scoring in the third period is more of an indication to me of how our team plays and playing the right way. When you wear a team down and are tough to play against over 60 minutes, when you make it difficult on a team with the speed with which you play, the physicality, that’s an indicator of how we are offensively, getting that goal-differential, scoring in the third period. We don’t intend to be a high-scoring team. We intend to be a tough team to play against. We intend to grind teams down and play with speed, execute. That leads to scoring goals. But it’s about how we play away from the puck defensively and not just offensively. I like the third-period differential more than saying we scored the most goals in the league.
On if he’s studied Radulov:
Not as much as I’d like in terms of studying him and watching him play. I talked to Evgeni this morning, he played with him with the National Team at different times. I talked to Steve Sullivan about the short time he played with Radulov in Nashville. I talked a little with (general manager) Ray Shero about him, though he didn’t see Radulov play when he was in Nashville. He watched him play a lot and scouted him. I don’t know exactly what we’re going to get. We know we’re getting the most talented player outside of the NHL coming back to their team. We know we’re getting a dynamic offensive guy, handling the puck, lateral movement, shifty out there offensively. You’re going to see that. It’s not just his speed that’s dominant but how he can move laterally and juke by a defenseman, on the rush, in the corners. We’re aware of that. None of us has seen him play a National Hockey League game for a while. We don’t know exactly what we’ll get in that regard. We’ve talked with everyone we could about how good he’s going to be and how good of a player he is. We know they’re getting a dynamic player back in their lineup tonight.
Predators head coach Barry Trotz confirms that Russian sniper Alexander Radulov will be in the lineup tonight against the Pens.
Pens who practiced this morning...
Crosby (left); Thiessen and Fleury (right)
All of the defensemen were at morning skate: Letang (left); Martin with Tony G. (right)
Adams and Cooke (left); TK and Orpik (right)
Dupuis stick checks Tangradi (left); Thiessen flanked by Tangradi and Jeffrey (right)
Niskanen (left); Fleury (right)
Pens coach Bylsma provided a few updates after practice. He said that both Brent Johnson and Joe Vitale skated earlier this morning. It was Johnson's third straight day on the ice and the first for Vitale.
Bylsma also confirmed that today was an optional morning skate. He added that Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal and the rest of his lineup will be a game-time decision.
A heads up for fans outside of Pittsburgh and Nashville: tonight's game will be shown on the NHL Network in the U.S. So if you're in the States, you'll be able to watch no matter where you are.
Evgeni Malkin is on the ice after getting a maintenance day Wednesday. Seven players – Kunitz, Neal, Staal, Sullivan, Asham, Vitale and Johnson – are absent from the optional morning skate.
With their win over Winnipeg Tuesday, the Pens now lead the NHL in goals scored (239). But not only are they the league's best offensive team, they rank in the top 10 in goals against, power play and penalty kill. The Pens are excelling across the board with their efforts all season, and I have more on that below.
With captain Sidney Crosby back in the lineup, the Penguins are widely considered to be a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. But they deserve that label no matter what, and here’s why.
With their 8-4 win over Winnipeg Tuesday, the Penguins now lead the NHL in goals scored with 230 – an average of 3.19 per game – and that’s with Crosby playing just 12 games.
When Crosby played 41 games in 2010-11, the Penguins finished the season ranked 13th in that category. They’ve already surpassed last year’s total (228) with 10 regular-season games left to play.
Full story here.
The Preds proved that they're in it to win it this year by being the NHL’s busiest team at the trade deadline. Now the Preds have added a gamebreaking talent in Alexander Radulov, who rejoined the team Wednesday after four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The team is expected to announce whether or not he'll play tonight in Pittsburgh following their morning skate, so we'll be following everything that comes out of the Preds locker room today.
For the scouting report on Radulov and the Preds as a whole, click here. Or you can watch the abbreviated version below.
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! The Pens will hit the ice for a 10:30 a.m. morning skate in preparation for a showdown with the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m. The big story of the day is the possible return of Russian stud Alexander Radulov. More on that later.
Since the Pens are playing Nashville, I'm going to start the day with some country - only fitting right? So we'll start with my favorite country music performer Johnny Cash and his tune "Walk the Line." Anyways, enjoy.