Penguins Notebook: Bylsma likes the Steelers in a close game


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Many of the Penguins have become Steelers fans, and that includes coach Dan Bylsma.

He had a prediction for today's AFC championship game, when the New York Jets visit Heinz Field: The Steelers, in a game that goes to the wire.

Being a coach, Bylsma offered a little more of a breakdown.

"The Steelers are going to win the game if they win the special teams area," Bylsma said Saturday. "That's my feeling of the game.

"I love the defensive matchup for both sides. It will be interesting to see how [Steelers safety Troy] Polamalu will get involved."

Of the high-profile quarterback matchup of the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and the Jets' Mark Sanchez, Bylsma said, "I think it's Ben in the end -- and it will be in the end."

Elevated role

The Penguins were without their top two forwards, Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee/sinus infection), for the second game in a row Saturday night when they played Carolina at Consol Energy Center.

That leaves Jordan Staal as the team's top name up front, even though it was just his 10th game back after foot and knee problems wiped out the first half of his season.

Staal has taken Crosby's place as the go-to player for daily interview sessions, and his line has been drawing matchups with opponents' top defensive pairings and, sometimes, their top forward lines.

Staal's oldest brother, Eric, who is the Hurricanes' leading scorer and captain, said Jordan, 22, is suited to the larger role.

"He's been in the league for a while now," Eric Staal said. "When you play behind those two guys, there's not as much media attention, and there are different aspects that go along with it.

"With them being out, he's kind of their horse that needs to be going for them to be successful."

Jordan Staal has patiently answered question after question about his elevated role.

"We still have a lot of great centermen throughout the lineup," he said. "I don't really feel any different than I do when those two guys are in the lineup."

Pick me, pick me

The Penguins in the past week played Detroit, with all-star captain Nicklas Lidstrom, and Carolina, with all-star captain Eric Staal. Those two will be in charge of picking teams, fantasy-league style, Friday for the NHL All-Star Game and SuperSkills competition in Raleigh, N.C.

The Penguins' two active all-stars swore they did no lobbying to be chosen quickly.

"No, I'm not trying to buy my way in there," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said, "but I'm hoping I won't be the last pick."

"I don't know those guys," defenseman Kris Letang said. "I'm not really paying attention."

Eric Staal said he hasn't been bribed or bugged too much.

"No fruit baskets," he said. "I've had a few texts. My brother [Marc, of the Rangers] is pushing hard to be picked high. Patrick Sharp, I know him from Thunder Bay, and he's texted me. A few guys. It's going to be fun to see how it all goes down."

Eric Staal can't draw on a lot of fantasy-league experience. He joined one this season to help Yahoo! Sports, but that didn't go so well.

"I picked Zach [Parise of New Jersey] in the first round, and he got hurt about a week into the season, so that was the end of my pool," he said.

No coaching advice

Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice was asked if his goaltending coach, Tom Barrasso, talked to all-star goalie Cam Ward during games. With the Penguins in the 1990s, Barrasso won two Stanley Cups -- but not a lot of hearts, thanks to a stoic and sometimes abrasive personality.

"I don't know of a goalie coach that goes down and talks to the goalies between periods," Maurice said. "Lord knows, nobody ever did with Tom Barrasso. His style wouldn't lend itself to that. I don't think the coach would have gotten two feet inside the door in his room."


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com .


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