SOME PRACTICE NOTES & LOCKER ROOM REACTIONS
*The Penguins were pegged by many as the Cup favorites last post-season, but this is such a different team from last year to personnel wise to even inside the room. Suddenly what you hear from scouts when discussing the Penguins is that “they’re big, physical and can beat you any way they want.”
That’s one major difference from last years group as the Penguins are now built to wear down teams, which is pivotal to winning playoff hockey.
Another thing that stands out is that for the first time in a couple years, you sense a championship feel about this group. I’m sure others who cover this team will also admit that there just wasn’t a championship feel inside the room last season.
In acquiring Douglas Murray, Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla and signing Mark Eaton, the Penguins didn’t only just add some quality hockey players, they also added some great guys in the locker room.
“We know this year just looking around the guys we went to get and the leadership we have in this room, we know within our room that we have a special group right now,” winger Pascal Dupuis said today. “We’re confident in our ability to win hockey games.”
*– When you try to come up with reasons on how the Islanders can pull off a monumental upset in round 1, one area is special teams where they have to exploit the Penguins penalty kill, which has been plagued by inconsistent play since last post-season and the Penguins ranked 25th in the NHL on the PK this season.
Players, though, feel there has been steady improvement on the PK in the last 20 games or so. “Halfway through this year on our PK, we’ve found our rhythm,” Dupuis said.
*– Evgeni Malkin continues to look like a different player in practice the past week. For the first time all year, he seems to have some extra jump in his skate, which could be huge for the Penguins in the post-season. Malkin would not admit that this is the healthiest he’s felt all season.
“It’s hard to say, I hope it’s not problem in playoffs, “Malkin said.
SOME LINEUP BUZZ
*– Defenseman Paul Martin continues to work exclusively with Deryk Engelland as his d-partner with Brooks Orpik not practicing. Orpik is regarded as a game time decision for tomorrow night. Engelland will play if Orpik is a no go.
*– Beau Bennett and Tyler Kennedy alternated at just about everything today from the 4th line RW spot to the second power play unit. That Said…
the general feeling continues to be that Kennedy will play over Bennett to start but Kennedy is not a lock to play for when Crosby returns.
Kunitz – Malkin – Neal
Dupuis – Jokinen – Iginla
Morrow – Sutter – Cooke
Glass – Adams – Kennedy/Bennett
Jeffrey – Crosby – Vitale
Martin – Engelland
Eaton – Letang
Murray – Niskanen
Despres – Bortuzzo
1st Power Play Unit: Kunitz – Malkin – Neal with Iginla – Letang at points
2nd Power Play Unit: Kennedy/Bennett – Jokinen – Morrow with Martin – Niskanen at points
Notes: Defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) skated before practice