Penguins Notebook: Sykora: 'Surprised' by his benching

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The merits of such a move had been debated publicly for days, if not longer.

Even so, right winger Petr Sykora appeared to be caught completely off-guard yesterday when interim coach Dan Bylsma informed him that Miroslav Satan would replace him in the lineup for Game 5.

"I'm surprised," Sykora said. "He just told me before practice that I'm not playing. Honestly, that's about it."

Bylsma, who played with Sykora in Anaheim, said it was "very difficult" to inform him that he won't be playing,

"The coach has to make those decisions," Bylsma said. "They're not easy ones."

Bylsma also replaced defenseman Kris Letang with Philippe Boucher, who made his series debut.

Although Bylsma said the personnel moves "were not based on injuries," there have been suspicions that Sykora was hurt for quite some time, and Letang is believed to have been hurt late in Game 4.

Satan, playing in an NHL game for the first time since March 3, said he's ready and that he had "no nerves" about returning to the lineup.

Bylsma said he expected Satan, who spent most of the stretch drive with the Penguins' minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre, to "play some meaningful minutes for us."

When Sykora, who has two goals in his past 21 games, will get his next opportunity to do that isn't clear.

"I'll wait until I go back in the lineup -- if I go back in the lineup -- and hopefully I will play more, so I can score goals," he said.

'Low blow' for Talbot

Center Max Talbot has a blackened left eye, which he says is the souvenir of a run-in with Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen along the boards while the Penguins were killing a penalty in the first period of Game 4.

"I was low," he said. "That's why the ref didn't call it. I was kind of cross-checked in the face."

Talbot didn't make an issue of the non-call and got his revenge by scoring the empty-net goal that secured the Penguins' 3-1 victory.

Montreal pressure cooker

Backup goalie Mathieu Garon grew up in Quebec and broke into the NHL with Montreal, so he has a pretty good feel for the stresses that go with playing for the Canadiens.

As a result, he can feel for Carey Price, the 21-year-old goalie who is one of the primary lightning rods for fan discontent in that city in the wake of the Canadiens being swept by Boston in the first round.

During the Bruins' series-clinching 4-1 victory Wednesday, Bell Centre fans gave Price a mock cheer after he stopped a wrist shot from center ice, prompting him to raise his arms in an equally mock celebration.

"It's really hard, especially for a young goalie like him, playing in Montreal," Garon said. "There's a lot of pressure on him, for sure.

"I don't think his reaction [to the pseudo-cheer] was the reaction he should have done, but I think he had a tough year -- especially the second half was tough for him -- and I guess that's the way he reacted."

Fleury's bottom line matters

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's play through the first four games was perhaps the biggest reason the Penguins were in position to close the series with Philadelphia last night, although his contributions weren't necessarily reflected by his place among the league's statistical leaders.

Fleury began the evening in seventh place in goals-against average (2.09) and save percentage (.937). His regular-season figures were 2.67 and .912.

Not that his teammates care about any of Fleury's numbers except his victory and defeat totals.

"No one's really a big believer in stats," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "If he keeps coming through the way he has for us the last two seasons in the playoffs, no one's going to have any complaints about his statistics."



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