Penguins Notebook: Game 5 to appear on national television
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With a 12:08 p.m. start Saturday for Game 5 of the Penguins-Tampa Bay first-round playoff series and no other games at that time, Versus has picked up the game for all but the Pittsburgh and Tampa markets, which will get their usual local TV broadcasts.
It's the first time the series that has drawn interest from Versus or NBC as a national game.
There's little question that if Penguins center Sidney Crosby, the NHL's biggest name, were playing, this series would get more national attention. Crosby has missed more than three months because of a concussion.
"That's the way the media, or TV, works it out, I guess, but we've got a lot of exciting players in this series," said Lightning forward Adam Hall, citing teammates Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and, in his first postseason series, Steven Stamkos.
"We've got Stanley Cup winners and a lot of exciting players."
Not that a national audience changes anything for the players.
"We don't really notice the TV thing," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "It's a big game every single time we're playing. It's still a playoff feel in the dressing room."
Left winger James Neal had just one goal in 20 regular-season games after the Penguins acquired him in a trade with Dallas. His second goal with the Penguins came several weeks later but was significant -- the winner Wednesday in a 3-2, double-overtime game in Tampa that gave his team a 3-1 series lead.
Neal's lack of scoring drew some criticism but also drew attention to other parts of his game, particularly his willingness to backcheck.
"I've always played like that, but it fits in good with the way we play," Neal said. "It just comes from everything. It comes from playing shinny in the summer. You lose the puck, and you want to get it back as quick as possible.
"The way you've got to do that is track back as fast as you can. But the way we play is so north-south, the second you lose the puck everybody's tracking back quick, and the faster you can get back, the quicker you can go on offense."
Neal listened when his youth coaches preached defensive responsibility among forwards.
"Coaches growing up don't want you cherry-picking and just staying up at the red line," he said. "They want you coming back hard.
"But it's just part of growing as a hockey player. The more years you play, the more you're going to learn. With that comes responsibility in your own end."
With two days between games and the long game Wednesday, both teams took a day off Thursday.
Some players were coming off of extensive playing time in Game 4.
For the Penguins, defensemen Brooks Orpik (40 minutes, 32 seconds), Kris Letang (38:21) and Zbynek Michalek (36:01) led. For the Lightning, defenseman Eric Brewer (34:51) and St. Louis (34:48) topped out, and goaltender Dwayne Roloson made 50 saves.
Tampa Bay revised its schedule and will travel to Pittsburgh for practice today rather than holding a workout at its practice facility and then making the trip.
Tampa Bay center Dominic Moore is a well-spoken, thoughtful guy with a Harvard education.
Nonetheless, he seems to have a knack for distracting opponents. Several Penguins mentioned him by name after Tampa Bay's 5-1 victory in Game 2 a week ago.
Moore, though, downplayed that facet of his game.
"Players get under each other's skin throughout the playoffs," he said. "That's part of the competition, part of the way the game is. If people are competing for space, everybody wants that space.
"I'm just trying to play my game, and stuff like that just kind of happens in the course of a series and the course of the playoffs."
Tampa Bay's St. Louis is one of three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy, for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct. St. Louis won it last season. The other finalists are Dallas' Loui Eriksson and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom.
First Published April 22, 2011 12:07 am