Post-Morning Skate Update
Despite losing two of the last three games in the series, including two straight, the Penguins were a loose and collected group this morning at the Consol Energy Center.
I feel It was important for them to go through a full skate this morning after having several optional skates of late and the team doesn’t appear rattled or feeling any kind of pressure of being the home team tonight and possibly blowing a 3-1 series lead.
Audio Link: Dan Bylsma Game 7 Audio
A key for the Penguins tonight is just getting back to doing what they do well and you could sense in the locker room that they’re expecting to simplify things tonight.
“I think you know with a long series, you realize what works for you and what doesn’t and I think for us making sure we manage the puck well, getting it out of zone and stay discipline, ” Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said.
“Stay out of the box, be able to get chances in deep and work their defensemen down low, ” Martin said about the “keys” for the Penguins tonight.
The Penguins have struggled defensively surrendering 12 goals in their last two games.
“I just think we’ve got away from the things we were doing well earlier, ” Martin said. Some of them have been bounces you just can’t control, sometimes we have to be a little bit better in front of our net.”
The goaltending matchup is pivotal tonight and Marc Andre Fleury will have to be on top of his game after giving up 8 goals on the last 31 shots he has faced.
The pressure will be on Fleury early on.
In Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens last post-season, Fleury was pulled in the second period and the Penguins goaltender called tonight’s game a different situation than last year.
“It would have been nice to have gotten it done earlier, but now we are here, I think it is a big game for everybody here and for their team also, ” Fleury said. “These games are always very intense and very exciting. It should be fun to play.”
“That was definitely a tough loss last year, ” Fleury said who appeared irritated by the questions.”But this is a new season. We are playing a different team and we have different guys on the team. It is a different situation. I think we have just got to be ready and prepared for what is coming tonight and give it everything we got.”
Lightning head coach was playing some mind games, saying that he believes Fleury will be impossible to beat.
Meanwhile, head coach Dan Bylsma went out of his way to give his goaltender some pre-game praise this morning.
“In terms of our team and the aspects of our team, he is a big part of our success. He is a big part of our team, ” Bylsma said. He is a big part of the confidence that we have and have developed in the way we play the games and how we win games. In the past he has shown his colors in these games. He has won some big games for us. He has made the big saves. He has been in his fair share of these big games too as well.
“He has not won every one. But he has stepped up his game and he has shown he is a big time goaltender. This year he has shown he is a big part of our team. He is a team MVP for a reason. He is a big part of the confidence and the way we play the game. In Game 7, We need our team to be our identity and how we play. He is a big part of that.”
A line the Penguins have to get something from tonight is the Neal – Letestu – Kovalev unit.
Kovalev since tweaking his right knee in Game 1 has been ineffective and since James Neal’s overtime goal, he’s given the Penguins nothing offensively.
Another disappointment has been center Mark Letestu who has also not been a factor 5-on-5.
Letestu said it’s been frustrating.
“At times, it get’s frustrating be out there quite a bit, getting 15+ minutes a game and not producing the way we want to, ” Letestu said. “Just getting pucks to the net, need to do a better job of that and that’s key. Getting pucks there, banging the net and getting some confidence going.”