Penguins notebook: Understanding Alfredsson's comments

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It raised eyebrows -- perhaps set off a few shock waves -- when Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson seemed to indicate after Game 4 that the Senators had little chance of coming back to beat the Penguins in the their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

After the Penguins' 7-3 win Wednesday that gave them a 3-1 series lead, Alfredsson was asked whether Ottawa could win three games in a row to clinch the series.

"Probably not," he said. "I mean, their depth and power play right now, you know, it doesn't look too good."

While the Penguins might be thrilled to think that the Senators have all but conceded, they aren't buying it.

"He's a smart guy, a great leader for their team and organization," Penguins winger Matt Cooke said Thursday. "I'm sure that he's got the right intentions and motives behind his comments."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Alfredsson's thoughts on his team were better understood by other things he said after Game 4, including that the Senators have a never-say-die attitude and that perhaps they like having steep odds against them.

"There's more to the answer he gave," Bylsma said.

Thursday, Alfredsson expounded on but did not retract his statement.

"There's no denying we're in [a] tough [situation]," he told reporters. "

"Was it taken out of context? Probably, but that's fine. I can handle that.

"We're down, 3-1, to a very good team and going back to their building. We're just going to go in there and give them a hell of a game. We've always responded really well when our backs are against the wall, and this is no different."

Pirates support appreciated

The Penguins got a kick out of a supportive gesture by the Pirates, who wore Penguins jerseys when they left for a road series at Milwaukee after their 4-2 win Thursday against the Chicago Cubs.

"It's pretty cool," Penguins winger James Neal said in an afternoon news conference at Consol Energy Center that coincided with the Pirates game at PNC Park.

"The first thing I noticed when I got to Pittsburgh was how big of a sports town it is, how much they love their sports here.

"The guys have the Pirates game on in the [locker] room right now."

Bylsma got a kick out of the gesture, too, and took the opportunity to suggest that the Pirates, like the Penguins, would make the playoffs in 2013.

"We heard that in addition to the jerseys, [infielder] Brandon Inge is wearing full gear -- Mario Lemieux jersey, helmet -- and I guess was tooling around on roller blades over at PNC before the game," Bylsma said.

"Love the support. The guys were pretty jacked up about the Pirates wearing the [Penguins] jerseys. I think you could definitely see a reciprocation when the Pirates are in their postseason run later this year."

Understanding Anderson

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun is not the only Penguins player who used to be goalie Craig Anderson's teammate in Florida.

Tanner Glass also played with Anderson on the Panthers and remembers him as a guy who was hard on himself.

"I spent a lot of time with him," Glass said. "He was the backup goalie, and I was a fourth-line, extra forward, and those guys tend to spend a lot of time after practice together.

"He was really hard on himself. He worked really hard. A great guy to be around. I can definitely see that side of him where he thinks he let in a bad goal, he'd be tough on himself."

Glass said Anderson's evolution from a backup to a premier goalie for Ottawa is not surprising.

"Even in Florida [when] he was backing up [Vokoun] at the time, we all knew he'd get a No. 1 job in this league sooner rather than later," he said.

Crosby on comebacks ...

Penguins center Sidney Crosby can relate to Jason Spezza, the Ottawa center who rejoined his team in Game 3 after being out since late January.

With several well-documented layoffs in his career because of to injuries, Crosby said Spezza, who had back surgery Feb. 1, can expect a process to unfold long after the first shift back.

"I don't think the first [game] is too bad, honestly," he said. "You're full of adrenaline, so you don't really get a great feel for everything in your first game.

"I feel like it's the ones after that. After that first one, the timing and things like that take a little bit, but, as for your energy and getting into the game, it's pretty easy, especially coming back in the playoffs."

Crosby said there have been missing aspects of his games in his comebacks.

"I can only speak for myself, but, yeah, there are definitely things that took time," he said. "You can only do so much in practice to get ready and get to the level you need to get to in practice.

"Once you're done with that, you just need to play games to get that kind of stuff. That kind of timing. There's no way to really rehearse that."

Part of the process, Crosby said, is figuring out what other skills can make up for those temporarily lost.

"You do have to think about things a little bit more," he said. "Realize if your speed or timing isn't there, how can you make up for that? There's definitely a little more thought that goes in when you're first coming back. I think that's pretty normal."

Double doses of torment

Crosby and fellow Penguins center Evgeni Malkin have at least one thing in common: Both can torment opposing defenses.

That doesn't mean there's a single strategy for limiting the damage they can do, though.

"Two opposites, I really think," Senators defenseman Jared Cowen said. "Crosby is low and strong. Malkin is more slippery and taller. He's a big, strong guy.

"Two different dynamics, I think, for sure. It's really two opposites when you go out there. You have to play both ways.

"It's more of how much space you give them I think. The way they come out of corners and whatnot. Crosby can get behind you, turn off and go right to the net. Malkin is so slippery, side-to-side. So you just have to give him more space to work with. It just depends on where you are and how good they're playing because I really think they feed off each other."

penguins

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com and Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twtter @JennMenendez.


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