Post-Morning Skate Notes
— Neither Dan Bylsma or Chris Kunitz were overly confident that Kunitz will return to the lineup tonight. Kunitz did not skate on any of the top-4 lines during the morning skate and said afterwards that he felt “ok” after today’s skate.
Head coach Dan Bylsma has officially listed Kunitz as a game time decision. Following tonight, the Penguins don’t play again until Saturday.
— The Penguins are expecting a playoff atmosphere tonight as many players concluded today, including Max Talbot who said he’s been keeping an eye on the standings quite often over the past couple days.
The Penguins are just two points behind the conference leading Philadelphia Flyers.
Bylsma Audio: Dan Bylsma Presser Audio
— Dan Bylsma was asked if he’s taught his team to play the way he did during his NHL career and Bylsma refuted that notion saying that despite the losses of their key skilled players, he continues to preach to his team to play the same way as if Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin were around.
One of the leading principles of Dan Bylsma’s system includes getting pucks to the net offensively. At times it hasn’t led to pucks getting in the net but it’s something Bylsma won’t go away from stressing.
Over the Penguins past 20 games dating back to Jan. 20, the Penguins have outshot their opponents 13 times while scraping and clawing to a 9-7-4 record (.500 pct.). During that stretch the Penguins have averaged 30.8 shots per game, while surrendering an average of just 28.0.
— For a player in a slump like James Neal who has 1 goal in his last 16 games, the key is to get to the net and be a force around the net.
Neal appears to be the differ. Neal said the key for him is to start using his shot more often in the high slot.
— Dustin Jeffrey is a player with a lot of confidence right now. After leading the Penguins to a 3-2 overtime defeat over the Boston Bruins on Saturday, scoring a pair of goals, including the game winner at 1:52 into overtime, Jeffrey has points in 7 of his previous 13 games for a total of 6 goals and 2 assists during that span.
The Penguins are 6-0 when Jeffrey scores and 8-0 when he records a point.
Jeffrey told me this morning that the game is starting to slow down for him and he’s adjusting to the speed of the NHL.
— The Penguins come into tonight’s game with 258 total man-games lost to injury:
Mike Comrie, injured reserve/hip (missed 45 games)
Sidney Crosby, injured reserve/concussion (missed 26 games)
Arron Asham, injured reserved/concussion (missed 16 games)
Evgeni Malkin, injured reserve/ torn ACL, MCL, out for season (missed 14 games)
Chris Kunitz, lower body (missed 13 games)
Eric Tangradi injured reserve/concussion (missed 10 games)
Nick Johnson, injured reserve/concussion (missed 8 games)
Brooks Orpik, injured reserved/broken finger (missed 5 games)
— Tonight will mark the 199th consecutive games sellout for the Penguins. On Nov. 17 against Vancouver, the team surpassed the 3 million mark in attendance during the streak. Since Pittsburgh’s sellout streak began on Feb, 14, 2007 against Chicago, 3,419,567 fans have seen the Penguins in action, an average of 17,271 per game.
Saturday afternoon’s home game against the Montreal Canadiens will mark the 200th straight sellout.