They were on opposite sides of an intense rivalry, but Thursday, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and former Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette were on the same side in a meeting relating to the United States Olympic team.
With Nashville in town for a game tonight at Consol Energy Center, it was timely to gather and discuss the U.S. roster for the Sochi Games.
Predators general manager David Poile is the U.S. general manager, with Penguins general manager Ray Shero an assistant general manager. Bylsma is the U.S. head coach, with Laviolette and Penguins assistant Tony Granato part of his staff.
Any animosity from Penguins-Flyers games has been cast aside as the time nears to complete a roster. Besides, Laviolette is no longer with the Flyers, after being fired three games into the season.
“We’ve met, we talk on the phone, talked 15, 20 times,” Bylsma said. “We’re talking pretty regularly. He’s a guy who has seen a lot of hockey games, studying the U.S. players, really looking at the guys that we’re watching in terms of making our team.”
Jones on Bylsma’s radar
One player Team USA might discuss is Nashville rookie defenseman Seth Jones, the fourth player selected in the June draft.
Through 18 games, Jones has two goals (one on the power play), seven points and is averaging 24 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time as part of a high-profile pairing with Shea Weber.
Jones, who turned 19 last month, might be a long shot for Sochi because of his age, but he has impressed Bylsma.
“I’ve seen him play a lot in the last three weeks. I’ve been watching him,” Bylsma said. “I am looking forward to seeing Seth Jones play live. It’s quite amazing what he’s doing for his team right now — the minutes he’s playing, who he’s playing with, how he’s playing. He’s going to be one of the very, very good players in our game for a very long time.”
Jones is trying to ignore that spotlight.
“I’m still going to play, even if he wasn’t watching me, the same way,” he said. “My focus is on the Nashville Predators right now.”
Martin nears return
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin, who has missed the past two games because of an undisclosed injury, joined 10 others for an optional practice.
“We saw him in battle drills and skating,” Bylsma said. “He looked pretty good. I am optimistic that he is possible to return.”
Megna back in Wilkes-Barre
The Penguins reassigned forward Jayson Megna to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Megna, 23, had two goals and an assist in six games, but he was a healthy scratch the past two games as wingers Beau Bennett and James Neal returned from injuries.
The Penguins who participated in the optional skate were: forwards Neal, Bennett, Dustin Jeffrey, Matt D’Agostini and Craig Adams; defensemen Martin, Olli Maatta, Deryk Engelland, and Robert Bortuzzo; and goaltenders Jeff Zatkoff and Marc-Andre Fleury. … Zatkoff and Fleury are each expected to start one of the back-to-back games tonight and Saturday (at New Jersey), but Bylsma declined to give details. … The Penguins’ outdoor game March 1 against Chicago at Soldier Field — the final game in the Stadium Series — has been moved from NBC Sports Network to NBC and set to start at 8 p.m.. It is the first time since NBC re-acquired the NHL television rights in 2006 that a regular-season game has been scheduled for prime time on NBC.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.