Some quick hits from the Penguins’ practice at Southpointe Iceoplex on Monday:
= There wasn’t a huge buzz inside the dressing room regarding the coaching changes with Washington and Carolina, and I will touch on how those moves might impact the Penguins in Tribune-Review notebook on Tuesday. However, HC Dan Bylsma had this to say on the topic of rival Bruce Boudreau losing his gig with the Capitals:
“I read it this morning, and you never feel good about seeing a coach in that position – regardless of who they are and what time they are coaching for,” Bylsma said. “I do think it’s certainly going to add a spark to our game coming up with a new coach coming up and us being an opponent so close to Bruce being fired.”
The Penguins play at the New York Rangers on Tuesday. They are at Washington on Thursday and at Carolina on Saturday.
A history lesson for those who may have let this slip their minds: The Penguins were five points out of a playoff spot when Bylsma replaced former HC Michel Therrien on Feb. 14, 2009. The went 18-3-4 over their final 25 games to earn a fourth seed in the East en route to the Stanley Cup.
The point is changes can do wonders for a team, and there does seem to be a similar recipe with the Capitals, who deploy a skilled group seemingly looking for a new voice at the top. The pressure is now firmly on Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin, also the team captain, to get his club moving in the right direction with Dale Hunter, who like Bylsma upon his hiring had no NHL head coaching experience, at the helm. Keep this in mind: C Sidney Crosby, the Penguins captain, finished 2008-09 with 33 goals and 103 points – the latter the third most in the NHL. He scored 10 goals and recorded 31 points after Bylsma replaced Therrien.
Crosby had this to say about in-season coaching changes after the Penguins’ practice:
“I guess every situation is different, but that’s the way we felt – at the end of the day we’re the ones out there playing and we need to win,” Crosby said. “Whether it takes (a change) to realize that, sometimes that’s the case, sometimes guys respond to that. Usually at that point the changes happens and everyone tries to respond.”
= Crosby on the puzzling comments made Sunday by Ottawa GM Bryan Murray:
“I heard about it,” Crosby said. “I think it’s getting blown way out of proportion. It’s ridiculous. It’s a play that happens in every game. I guess the fact that it’s me it gets dissected and analyzed 100 times more, but I really think they’re making something out of nothing. If they really want to keep beating it around they can, but I don’t have really anything else to say about it. I think it’s ridiculous we’re still talking about it three days later to be honest.”
As for Murray delivering a verbal shot – an unsolicited one at that – at Crosby, well, that did not catch Crosby by surprise, either.
“He’s been doing that since my first year,” Crosby said. “That’s nothing new.”
This is one of those spots where the beat reporter can wisely choose to let the captain of the team he covers have the final say, and so I will on this topic. After all, it would be hard to write it any better than Crosby said it today.
Crosby was named the NHL’s No. 1 star for last week, by the way. The duh! distinction of this young NHL season.
= D Kris Letang joined practice late and acknowledged his broken nose is sore and that breathing remains difficult, but there was no indication that he would not play Tuesday night at New York. Letang said he has yet to take the ImPACT baseline concussion test, but that he will need to pass it before gaining clearance from team physician Dr. Charles Burke to play against the Rangers.
Letang said he had no idea what to expect from the NHL, whose discipline czar Brendan Shanahan was scheduled to hold a phone hearing with Canadiens LW Max Pacioretty this morning. Pacioretty caught Letang with a blindside shoulder to the face late in the third period on Saturday at Montreal.
“Knowing the style he plays I don’t think he’s a guy looking to injury guys on the ice,” Letang said. “If (Pacioretty’s apology) was sincere I don’t know, but I think it was a great gesture by him to come over. Is it enough? I don’t know.”
Letang described his nose as “all messed up.” He said he met with a nose specialist and a concussion expert before practice today.
= G Marc-Andre Fleury celebrated his 27th birthday, and teammates rewarded him by firing pucks at him from center red late in practice.
“That was a first,” Fleury said. “A puck for every year.”
Not quite, actually. Still, point taken – no slacking on the big day, Mr. Goalie Man.
Fleury said his birthday haul was a chocolate cake baked by his fiancée, some video games (notably “Batman: Arkham City” from his mom, and a scarf.
Guess which one this reporter inquired about.*
*Inside joke for the local audience.