Penguins notebook: Vokoun likely to start, but Bylsma doesn't say


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Penguins coach Dan Bylsma would not name his starting goaltender for Game 6 tonight in New York, but it sounded as if it again will be Tomas Vokoun.

Bylsma sang the praises of his veteran backup, whose calming presence was impossible to miss in Game 5 of the team's Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Islanders.

"The lineup will not be discussed. But we know what Tomas did [Thursday] night in the game and how well he's played for us," Bylsma said Friday in his media conference call.

Vokoun turned away 31 shots in a 4-0 victory that gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead in the series. It was Vokoun's first playoff appearance since 2007 when he was with the Nashville Predators.

Game 7 time set

The NHL said on its website Friday that Game 7 of the Penguins-Islanders playoff series, if necessary, will start at 7 p.m. Sunday.

The Penguins lead, 3-2, and could win the series by beating the Islanders Saturday night on Long Island. A Game 7 Sunday at Consol Energy Center would be necessary if the Penguins lost tonight.

Taste of the playoffs

No fewer than 13 Islanders have made their Stanley Cup playoff debuts in this series, and some have conflicting views about just how much the postseason differs from regular-season play.

Some, such as center Frans Nielsen, don't get what all the fuss is about.

"You have to keep your head up a little longer [in the playoffs] after you make a pass because there might be some late hits," he said. "But other than that, it's the same team we saw in the regular season. Not a big difference."

But Wingers Matt Martin and Colin McDonald don't share his perspective. Not entirely, anyway.

"The physicality is obviously higher," Martin said. "It gets a lot chippier out there. Frustrations, emotions, run a little higher.

"But, for the most part, it's really just the crowds and the excitement from fans. Obviously, they're into it a lot more. Our arena is full. It's amped up a bit, but, at the end of the day, what we learned from the first game is that it really is the same game. The game we've been playing all along."

McDonald believes it's obvious that the stakes and intensity are higher in the postseason.

"There's a difference," he said. "Guys and teams are fighting for their lives every game. The pace is a lot higher, the physicality is a lot more.

Birth of a tradition

The playoff beard in hockey has become a rite of the postseason in the NHL and it is believed to have been first started by the 1980 Islanders, under pressure that spring to raise the Stanley Cup.

Butch Goring, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner who is now the team's color commentator for MSG Network television, was in town this week for the Penguins-Islanders series. He recalled just how that little tradition -- not so little anymore -- first caught on.

"You know it wasn't like anybody stood up in the dressing room and said 'Hey, we're gonna grow beards for the playoffs to the Stanley Cup.' I think when you get involved in the playoff scenarios you don't feel like being Mr. Clean all the time. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, you let things happen, so to speak," Goring said.

"It just kind of took off. Everybody started growing them. Nobody all of a sudden wanted to shave anymore. It was 'Oh, OK, this is us. This is our mark of commitment until we win the Stanley Cup.' And it just grew. That's really how it came about."

The Islanders won the first of four consecutive Cup titles that spring, and the beard-growing phenomenon never was spoken of until later.

"No, it was never really a point of discussion. It really became more of a point of discussion amongst media because it became very noticeable quickly. It became something on its own more than anything else," Goring said.

And it suited that team, even rookie Duane Sutter, barely 20 in the spring of 1980.

"Duane Sutter had a terrible beard. He was maybe 18 years old. Didn't have hair anywhere. There was a few guys that didn't," Goring said. "But the team picture, everybody bought into it.

"I think it gave us a focus. This is a reminder of the seriousness of the event. This was one thing for us to continue to focus on. We were doing it right, and nobody saw any reason to change."

Tip-ins

The NHL announced a scoring change from Game 4, crediting defenseman Kris Letang for the second assist on the team's third goal scored by center Brandon Sutter.

The assist was originally credited to Matt Cooke. Letang now has 2 goals, 4 assists for 6 points in the playoffs, tying him with Ottawa's Erik Karlsson for most among defensemen.

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Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com or Twitter @JennMenendez First Published May 11, 2013 4:00 AM


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