Marc-Andre Fleury could hold a grudge. The goaltender didn't get as many starts as he might have liked early this season after a difficult start.
But Fleury has been at the top of his game for months now, and he had nothing but glowing things to say about Dan Bylsma the day after Penguins announced a three-year contract extension for their coach.
"I can't complain. I've played a lot [overall]," Fleury said after practice Thursday at Southpointe. "He's easy to talk with. You can talk to him about anything. He's open.
"Dan has done a good job with the team. He's a guy who's always positive, always looking for that next play. No matter what happened, just keep moving forward, try to make the next play right."
Rookie center Dustin Jeffrey has played for Bylsma with the Penguins and previously with their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton minor league club.
"He brings an enthusiasm to the rink, and something new every day," Jeffrey said. "When you see a guy who's genuinely excited to be here every day to teach us, to be on the ice with us, I think it's contagious. You see with our team the way we play, it's almost a reflection of the way he carries himself and the way he brings himself to the rink."
The Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup with Bylsma on the bench, and, despite a long list of injuries to key players this season, the club is contending for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference titles.
Jeffrey and veteran winger Matt Cooke each cited the short time since Bylsma, 40, retired as a player as something that seems to have given him good perspective.
"I think that everyone in this [dressing] room would think that if there's a coach out there that you want to play for, Dan would be at the top of the list," Cooke said.
"He's a teacher of the game. He's willing to spend time with guys and help guys get better.
"He's not that far removed [from playing], so he understands and respects the players' point of view, which is a huge thing when you're a player."
When Bylsma's extension was announced, general manager Ray Shero said he also wants to work out extensions for Penguins assistants Todd Reirden and Tony Granato, along with minor league coach John Hynes and his assistant, Alain Nasdreddine.
Shero indicated Thursday that he feels the same about Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche.
Winger James Neal is getting comfortable with a lot of new people since he came from Dallas in a Feb. 21 trade. He will have a chance to catch up with a long-familiar face this weekend, though, when former Penguins winger Gary Roberts visits to take part in a Penguins adult hockey fantasy camp.
Roberts, who had a reputation for scaring the grit off of sandpaper, also was known for his rigorous and thorough off-ice regimen. Neal was 16, about to enter the Ontario Hockey League junior draft, when he began training with Roberts at Roberts' Station Seven gym in Toronto.
"He just kind of took me under his wing and brought me along," Neal said. "That was my first time really starting to work out and train. He showed me how to train your body and get it to the next level and how professional athletes train."
The workouts were intense.
"But he's such a good guy and so encouraging," Neal said.
"He wants nothing but the best for you. It's a great atmosphere to be in. It's obviously hard, and he pushes you, but, while you're doing it, it's a lot of fun."
Roberts now works with Dallas as a player-development consultant.
Bylsma was asked if sidelined center Sidney Crosby continues to have concussion symptoms or if there is still time for him to possibly return during the regular season.
"There's nothing new for you at this time," Bylsma said.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com . First Published March 11, 2011 5:00 AM