Penguins Notebook: Bylsma is finalist for coach of year

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Dan Bylsma called it "humbling" to be a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, which recognizes the NHL coach of the year.

"This team and this group of players, what they did this year, I feel like I watched them give a lesson in working hard, diligence, perseverance and being a good hockey team," Bylsma said Friday. "I'm fortunate to have coached this team."

The Penguins had significant long-term injuries but finished with 106 points, second most in club history, and challenged for the Atlantic Division title before falling to Tampa Bay in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

General manager Ray Shero said the midseason HBO reality series, "24/7," showed why Bylsma is a worthy candidate.

"I think a lot of people had a glimpse of Dan and the coaches, what they do, how they operate," Shero said. "I think that opened some eyes as to the grip they have on our hockey team, the teaching they do and the presence that he has with our hockey team."

The other finalists are Barry Trotz of Nashville and Alain Vigneault of Vancouver. The winner will be announced during the NHL awards gala June 22 in Las Vegas.

It's on to Slovakia

Two Penguins players are headed to Slovakia to play in the IIHF world championships, but they will not be teammates.

Winger James Neal will play for Canada, and defenseman Zbynek Michalek will play for the Czech Republic, joining his brother, Milan, of Ottawa.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were invited by Team Canada, and defenseman Brooks Orpik had some conversation with the United States team, but they declined to participate.

"I just have a good opportunity to have a longer summer," Fleury said. "I think it will be nice to relax, do something else, clear my head to get ready for next season."

Looking ahead

Shero began discussions with the coaching staff as well as the team's free-agent forwards Friday about which players might be re-signed but said decisions will "take place over the course of time."

The team's two goaltenders and seven defensemen are signed through at least next season, but 10 forwards are eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1. They are Craig Adams, Arron Asham, Mike Comrie, Chris Conner, Pascal Dupuis, Eric Godard, Nick Johnson, Alex Kovalev, Mike Rupp and Max Talbot.

Asham, Conner, Dupuis, Rupp and Talbot said they hoped to return, with Rupp saying his family has settled into Pittsburgh long term, even if he eventually plays elsewhere. The others did not speak with reporters, and Kovalev appeared to be the only one who had cleared out his things by midday.

It is believed at least one team in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League is interested in Godard.

Malkin on Malkin

It is all speculation now, but center Evgeni Malkin guessed that had the Penguins advanced as far as the Eastern Conference final, he might have been able to play despite having surgery Feb. 10 for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He also had a torn medial collateral ligament in the same knee.

Malkin has been skating on his own lately, mostly in warm-ups, but originally was said to be out until training camp in September.

"I think I could have played in the third round and [Stanley Cup] finals, because I tried to skate with my equipment one time," Malkin said. "It wasn't bad -- not fast, but pretty strong, and I think I could have played this year if we won."

Tip-ins

Bylsma declined to reveal whether any players were dealing with significant injuries not previously made public. ... The coach also said that the experiment that got derailed by injuries -- having Malkin move from center to Jordan Staal's wing -- is something that could still happen next season. ... Bylsma said he would not be opposed to working with a power-play consultant and that winger Tyler Kennedy likely earned a bigger role on the power play as well as a regular spot as a top-six forward.



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