Many of the Penguins spent Thursday night watching the New York Rangers, today's opponent, play at Atlanta.
Before that game, Penguins center Jordan Staal texted his older brother Marc, a Rangers defenseman, telling him he would be watching and requesting that Marc do something good in the game.
As it turned out, Marc Staal and defense partner Dan Girardi struggled against the Thrashers' top line and finished with a plus-minus rating of minus-4 in a 5-4 shootout loss.
Jordan Staal then got a text reply from Marc: "You caught me on the worst game of my NHL career. Don't ever watch me again."
Of course, they will have a chance to watch each other up close at Mellon Arena this afternoon.
Center and NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin returned to Penguins practice yesterday after being given Thursday off to rest.
Malkin skated on a line with regular right winger Petr Sykora and, on the left side, Matt Cooke.
Cooke -- who for long stretches this season has been a fixture on the third line with Jordan Staal and right winger Tyler Kennedy -- and Ruslan Fedotenko split time between Malkin's line and Staal's line Wednesday night in a 2-0 victory against Calgary. Fedotenko was on Staal's line yesterday.
The Penguins spent the past two days practicing at Southpointe rather than Mellon Arena as crews set up for Britney Spears' "Circus" comeback tour show last night.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury planned to go to the concert to see what the fuss was about, although he doubted he would see the encore since the team has a game today.
"I'm going for a little bit just to see what it's like," Fleury said after practice.
A couple other players still were trying to land tickets.
One aspect of the concert worried the players. With only about 12 hours to uncover the ice and convert the arena back to a hockey venue, they are expecting less than ideal conditions with the ice surface.
"Probably not that good," captain Sidney Crosby said.
"It's a pretty quick turnaround. It's going to be pretty choppy [ice], I think."
Penguins defenseman Philippe Boucher is expected to remain out of the lineup today despite being off injured reserve for eight days. "He's ready, but he also hasn't played in a long period of time, and so while we play well it's a difficult decision about when to get him in," interim coach Dan Bylsma said. ... With just two games in the previous six days, Sidney Crosby was one of a handful of Penguins who practiced for 90 minutes, seemingly extra long this late in the season. "No morning skate [today], and with our schedule being a little bit lighter, you take advantage of the practice when you can get it," he said. ... The Penguins signed minor-league forward Mark Letestu to a two-year contract. He has 21 goals, 55 points with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. ... Starting with their games in Sweden, the Penguins are 6-9-2 in day games. "It shouldn't be an issue," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "It's just one of those off-the-wall stats that people like to throw together." ... Rangers defenseman and former Penguin Michal Rozsival is expected to miss today's game because of what is reportedly a knee injury. ... The Penguins are having a clothing drive to benefit Goodwill today. Clothing and cash donations will be collected from fans entering the game.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.