Penguins notebook: Season finale will generate a purpose
April 12, 2014 10:33 PM
Jussi Jokinen celebrates after scoring the Penguins' first goal Saturday against the Flyers at Consol Energy Center.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Going into the past two games, the Penguins were facing what at the time were potential first-round opponents, Detroit and Philadelphia.
That won't be the case tonight.
The Ottawa Senators come to town for the final regular-season game for both clubs. Ottawa is out of the playoffs, the Penguins are locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and will know their first-round matchup by the time the game starts.
No problem, the Penguins said.
Winger James Neal, who had a goal and two assists Saturday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers at Consol Energy Center, called the game against the Senators "another chance for guys to prove themselves and another chance for us to sharpen our skills before we go into the playoffs. No matter the meaning of the game, it's a chance for us to get better. We've got to look at it like that."
Team captain Sidney Crosby thought the Penguins had a good showing against the Flyers in spite of the loss and hopes for more of the same against Ottawa.
"Just to follow up this performance," he said of the Penguins' priority for tonight.
"As a whole, we want to feel good about our game, and I think there are some things we can take from [Saturday] that were good. For a game that doesn't really move us anywhere or have a lot of bearing on us, we came with the right attitude, the right mindset. We need to do that again."
Winger Tanner Glass took things to an even more fundamental place.
"It's a National Hockey League game," he said of Game No. 82. "We come in as individuals trying to be proud of the game we put on the ice, and to play well. Whether it means anything or not, it's an opportunity to play in the National Hockey League. That's a pretty special thing."
Coach Dan Bylsma did not tip his hand about his lineup, or whether he might rest some regulars. Defenseman Brooks Orpik and wingers Chris Kunitz and Taylor Pyatt were lineup scratches against the Flyers. Bylsma said they are considered day-to-day because of apparent minor injuries.
Bylsma said the coaches' approach to the game tonight will be altered slightly because some of the time they might have spent getting ready for Ottawa will be devoted to the Penguins' first-round opponent.
"By the time the game starts, the coaches will know our opponent," Bylsma said. "We will be getting ready for that. ... So it will be a little different."
Fourth line altered
With Kunitz and Pyatt out, the Penguins' fourth line included center Craig Adams with Deryk Engelland, who was shifted from defense to right winger, and Harry Zolnierczyk, who was called up Friday from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
"You get an opportunity to show yourself, to put yourself [in position] to be in the lineup come playoffs," said Zolnierczyk, who had one shot in 11 minutes, 31 seconds of playing time in his 12th game this season with the Penguins, his 56th career NHL game.
"My goal was to be in the [NHL] lineup all season. That wasn't the case, but now I have an opportunity to show myself for the playoffs."
That's not out of the question.
Bylsma said the team's lineup for the postseason, particularly with the third and fourth forward lines, "is not set in stone."
"Depending on the matchups, we might see different lineups. That's still a possibility."
One of Crosby's original teammates with the Penguins, winger Ryan Malone, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and cocaine possession early Saturday morning in Tampa, Fla., where Malone plays for the Lightning.
Malone is a native of Upper St. Clair.
"It's not good to see," Crosby said. "It's tough to see that happen to a friend and a former teammate. I don't know all the details, but, hopefully, it's something he can learn from.
"You never like to see that. It's unfortunate."
The NHL, in a statement, said Malone's status will be determined through the league's substance abuse program.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury wore the Steelers-themed helmet he used March 1 in a Stadium Series outdoor game at Chicago. ... The attendance of 18,673 not only was the Penguins' 326th sellout in a row, but it also tied the Consol Energy record for a hockey game.
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