ovechkin Post-Morning Skate Update
Sidney Crosby skated for the third straight day going through individual on-ice workouts with James Neal, Paul Martin, and Eric Hartzell prior to the morning skate, but Crosby won’t be skating tomorrow as he’s heading back home to attend a funeral. He will rejoin the team later in the week.

*Bylsma confirmed that Marc Andre Fleury will be in goal. Peter Budaj gets the start for the Montreal Canadiens. With an optional skate this morning, the lineup tonight is unclear. Bylsma wouldn’t tip his hand about Evgeni Malkin. Malkin rarely speaks on game days and didn’t today.

*With a win tonight, the Penguins can move nine points ahead of the Canadiens for the No. 1 seed. According to sportsclubstats.com, the Penguins have a 98% chance to earn the No. 1 seed.

*The Penguins have won 19 of 21 games but there’s one consistent area of this team that has been mediocre and that’s the penalty kill, an area that haunted them last post-season.
“As a team we want to work on different things,” defenseman Kris Letang said today. “We want to improve our PK,” Letang said. The Penguins are 25th in the NHL at 78.9%.

*Paul Martin and Sidney Crosby are both good enough players where they really don’t need any tune up games before the playoffs but of course it would be nice for them to get a game in or two. “There’s benefit in playing hockey games, getting in games,” Bylsma said….{But} “I feel comfortable they will be able to get into spots, be factors. There’s going to be no thought about rushing a player back,” Bylsma said. “Bylsma cited Kris Letang as an example where high level players can come right in and be big factors right away when returning to the lineup from injury.

*Goaltender Eric Hartzell was all smiles this morning after joining the NHL club and being on the ice with Sidney Crosby. Hartzell called it a “dream come true” to be taking shots from Crosby and said his primary goal is to eventually push for NHL time. Hartzell claimed he had other teams interested in him but really liked the opportunity he’s going to get in Pittsburgh from the standpoint of developing. Scouts feel Hartzell has a chance to become a quality No. 2 NHL goaltender.

Bylsma on Canadiens: “Team we feel in a lot of ways is a very good team. Their defense has been very good for them this year and that really leads into their power play, Will be a factor in the game tonight. We’re anticipating this game being two best teams (record wise) in conference.”

*Hart Trophy Talk: Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates has created a stir yesterday saying Alexander Ovechkin deserves to be the MVP of the league because of the games Sidney Crosby has missed. Ovechkin and the Capitals are on a surge, winning eight straight and Ovechkin leads the NHL with 28 goals.
When asked yesterday by the media if Ovechkin should be the MVP, Oates replied “So my answer would be, yeah, absolutely,” Oates said. “Obviously, Sidney Crosby is another candidate, for sure. He had such a scoring lead. But there’s also – I think you gotta factor in the fact that he’s missed a lot of games. That’s not really for me to say though. That’s you [the media].”
Bylsma’s response: “Adam Oates is the only person I’ve heard of who doesn’t think it wasn’t Sidney Crosby,” when asked about Oates comments on who should be the NHL MVP. Bob McKenzies coaches poll has Crosby being the clear favorite in the eyes of coaches.

Bylsma’s trust level of rookies going into the playoffs: The sense would be it’s not high based on his handling of Simon Despres this season. Bylsma, though, says he’s comfortable with putting his rookies out there. “I’m comfortable with the rookies we have to step in and contribute in any situation that may arise down the road.”