Penguins notebook: Quick travel for Game 3 an afterthought
May 4, 2014 11:39 PM
Sidney Crosby corrals a loose puck Sunday against the Rangers at Consol Energy Center.
By Shelly Anderson and Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins and New York Rangers promised going into Game 2 of their Eastern Conference second-round playoff series Sunday night that they would employ a form of tunnel vision.
They did not plan to let themselves think about the fact that after the game both teams were scheduled to head for the airport and travel to New York for Game 3 tonight at Madison Square Garden.
"You just play," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "You can't save anything, especially in our situation -- we lost Game 1 at home."
The Rangers have recent experience at playing back-to-back nights in two cities in the playoffs. They did that for Games 6 and 7 against Philadelphia last week in the first round.
"Playoff games are tougher on you physically and emotionally, so that part of it [in a back-to-back situation] is a lot different in a playoff series," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said.
The Penguins, though, have not played on back-to-back nights in the postseason since Games 1 and 2 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final against the Red Wings -- and those were both in Detroit.
"We all have played enough games back-to-back that everyone knows what's best for themselves to prepare," Penguins winger Jussi Jokinen said.
But there was a distinction drawn between regular-season back-to-back games, even against the same team, and times it happens in the postseason.
In the regular season, games on successive nights can be managed as a set to some extent. Things are too urgent for that in the playoffs.
"When you get caught looking ahead, you lose yourself in the moment and things creep up on you," Penguins winger Joe Vitale said. "You take care of the present game, and then things work themselves out the following game."
For the coaches, there's a little bit more of a big picture than for the players.
"I don't think you put blinders on in this situation," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I don't think you can coach ahead [either]."
Managing things such as ice time sometimes is determined on the fly.
"There's always that in your mind," Bylsma said. "In the regular season when you have back-to-back games and you're going to travel, do you make decisions -- do you limit ice time -- based on the fact that the game's going a certain way.
"But you can't look ahead and say this is a six-period hockey game."
Another goal-less star
Penguins center Sidney Crosby entered Game 2 with a 12-game playoff goal-less streak that dates to 2013.
He wasn't the only high-profile player in the series who hadn't been able to find the net this spring.
Rangers left winger Rick Nash was 0 for 8 in these playoffs going into Sunday night, and acknowledged after New York's game-day skate that the slump has bothered him.
"It's disappointing that I can't help the team win, but when you're not scoring goals, you have to help in other ways," he said. "Killing penalties, shifting momentum, getting chances, setting guys up.
"But it's definitely frustrating."
No marathon futures
As the Penguins were arriving at Consol Energy Center for their game-day skate, elsewhere in the city thousands were running in Pittsburgh Marathon or had come out to watch.
Penguins players expressed respect for those who can run 26.2 miles -- much less be competitive at that distance -- but there wasn't a lot of interest in doing that themselves.
"No way. No. No chance," center Marcel Goc said. "I think it takes a lot of practice. You've got to get your body used to that.
"We're athletes, too. We can run a little bit, too, but I think for that long, I think I would pass out. My body would shut down before I got to the finish line."
Vitale shook his head at the prospect.
"No. Never," he said of attempting to run a marathon. "I think the farthest I've ever run was 12 miles. I had blisters. I think I was out of commission for three or four weeks.
"It's pretty incredible what those guys do."
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik missed his fourth game in a row because of an undisclosed injury, but he skated for the second day in a row. On Saturday, he skated with a scaled-down roster of teammates at an optional practice. On Sunday, he and third goaltender Tomas Vokoun skated with strength coach Mike Kadar and goalie coach Mike Bales before the team's game-day skate. ... Penguins winger Brian Gibbons returned to the lineup. He had been out since he left Game 2 of the first round -- after scoring two goals -- because of an unspecified injury. Tanner Glass was scratched for the first time this postseason. ... In a regular game-day afternoon staff pickup game, Penguins broadcaster and Stanley Cup winger Phil Bourque inadvertently clipped Bylsma with his stick, leaving a cut on his face that required stitches.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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