Penguins Notebook: Bylsma supports Lemieux, team
The Islanders and the Penguins fight during the second period of Friday's game at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
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The statement Penguins Hall of Fame center and owner Mario Lemieux issued Sunday criticizing the NHL's response to a brawl- and penalty-filled road loss Friday against the New York Islanders has drawn widespread and varying reaction.
Coach Dan Bylsma said the club continues to stand by Lemieux's statement and that, in hindsight, he is not ashamed of anything his team did in the game, which included 346 penalty minutes, with 15 fighting majors and 21 misconducts; a sucker punch from behind by New York's Matt Martin against Max Talbot; Trevor Gillies' elbow to the head of Eric Tangradi that caused concussion-like symptoms; Gillies' repeated blows after Tangradi was down, followed by him taunting the rookie; and forward Micheal Haley picking a fight with, among others, goaltender Brent Johnson.
"We all had emotional responses to the league and the ruling. ... When talking about circumstances and protecting players and blind-side shots on unsuspecting players, those were feelings and sentiments that we echo," Bylsma said Tuesday.
One recurring knock against Lemieux's statement is that he employs hard-nosed winger Matt Cooke, who will serve the fourth and final game of a suspension tonight when the Penguins play at Colorado for a hit from behind against Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin.
Bylsma indicated that a questionable hit by Cooke based on opportunity during a game differs from something premeditated or a deliberate act of excessive violence.
"When it's a head shot, when it's to an unsuspecting player, when it's to a player who's down and injured, I think it's a different aspect," Bylsma said.
Bylsma offered injury updates on five forwards:
• Chris Kunitz (missed four games) is going through rehab, "is getting better" and is day to day because of an unspecified injury.
• Dustin Jeffrey (two games) has been fitted for a brace for what is believed to be a right leg injury. "He will likely be back on the ice skating later in the week or on the weekend."
• Mark Letestu (eight games) "skated lightly on his own without any gear." Letestu had arthroscopic knee surgery.
• Arron Asham (seven games) is day to day because of an undisclosed injury.
• Tangradi (one game) is still resting.
Until Monday afternoon, the Penguins could have looked forward to playing against center and former league MVP Peter Forsberg, who, last week, made a comeback with Colorado.
After two games, though, Forsberg decided to retire at age 37. He has been plagued by a chronic foot problem.
"Some of the guys watched him and said they were surprised because he looked pretty good," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
"But expecting him to be at the level we're all familiar with is probably a little unfair to him. That's probably the thing that frustrated him the most, not being able to play like he did before."
Facing Forsberg even at something less than his prime appealed to the Penguins.
"I think it would have been cool, just because of who he is and how good he used to be," Orpik said.
Meanwhile, Colorado has lost eight games in a row, and leading scorer Matt Duchene (21 goals, 47 points) is questionable because of a hand injury.
Tuesday marked the second anniversary of Bylsma's hiring. He has had a few obvious big moments, most notably winning the 2009 Stanley Cup, but he offered some others:
• The removal of "interim" before his title after a '09 first-round playoff win against Philadelphia;
• Getting an invitation to Lemieux's annual charity golf tournament in '09, then getting invited back the next year.
• The 9-1 start to the '09-10 season. "That was big," Bylsma said.
• Beating Ottawa in the first round of the '10 playoffs with a 4-3 overtime Game 6 road win.
First Published February 16, 2011 12:00 am