***Here are some sound bytes from Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin and Chris Conner, all who I caught up with after yesterday’s practice. Among the topics include everyone buying into their role, Sidney Crosby, reasons for 1st line success, defensive mindset, third line success and Chris Conner making things interesting as he solidifies a spot in the top-9***
Locker Room Talking Points with Conner, Kunitz & Martin
The Penguins are in the midst of an 8 game winning streak that includes a 10-0-1 run and the team appears to be ascending and improving in just about every phase of their game.
What is starting to make this team unique is how everyone is buying into their role. That comes from a coaching staff that is great at communicating with it’s players and most importantly the players buying into a team concept.
“I think it’s a little bit of each player, knowing what there game is and believing that they can be successful in that role, ” Kunitz said
“We have a lot of guys that can be versatile and do a lot of jobs on the team but whatever they’re asked for, they can go out there and do it, ” Kunitz said.
“We have guys who can be grind guys, or guys that can be offensive guys but whatever role they are put in, guys are doing the little things to make the team better and that’s something where the feeling in the room has chemistry and guys are happy about coming to the rink, it’s something guys will do for the team.” Kunitz said.
From individual standpoint, Kunitz’ value to the team has been on display this season on the Penguins top line. He ranks first among “full time” Penguins wingers with 14 points and is 3rd on the team with 69 hits.
When discussing his success this season and his lines success, Kunitz wanted to give all of the credit to linemate Sidney Crosby.
“Sid obviously, ” Kunitz said with a chuckle when asked about the reasons for his success this year. “He’s playing great hockey right now. He’s making more ice for the rest of us by driving guys off and doing the little things.”
“He’s being rewarded by going to the hard areas and finding himself open. We enjoy playing together, it’s something that we have to keep getting better and keep working on.
“As our team goes, obviously Sid goes, ” Kunitz said. “If we can give him the puck and for him to be successful, it means our team is going to benefit in the end, ” Kunitz said.
As a unit, Kunitz, Crosby and Pascal Dupuis are a combined plus-16 in their last 5 games.
“I think we all work hard, we all do little things on the ice, ” Kunitz said. “Forecheck, backcheck, guys will go to the areas of the ice where you need to get rebounds, or make passes and things like that. I think it’s a little bit of everything, I think we have a little bit of speed and we’re working on trying to be a little bit more offensive on the rushes too. It’s a combination of being comfortable for us but the puck is bouncing for us too.
CONNER TALKING POINTS
Conner on his play: “Just sticking to my strengths. Tyler and Mark have been great in helping me out.”
Conner on what the coaching staff is looking for from the Conner-Letestu-Kennedy unit: “Definitely speed and energy. Obviously were not the biggest guys but we can get onto pucks quickly and aggravate their d-men and I think that’s what we’ve been doing but we have to keep it going.
Conner on staying with the Big Club: “Just taking it one day at a time and the mindset to keep working. Doing whatever I can to make the team successful.”
MARTIN TALKING POINTS
Martin on the Pens improved defensive play: “I don’t think too much has changed in the way we have wanted to play, ” Martin said when asked about what has changed from earlier in the year. “Things have changed on how we are executing and making better decisions with the puck. Everyone has raised their games to play within the system better, forwards, Flower, Johnny and that really helps.”