The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

January 3, 2013

Penguins in prime position whenever lockout ends

PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby's been down the road too many times during the NHL's seemingly interminable lockout to get too optimistic about the latest — and perhaps last — round of negotiations.

Yet the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows eventually his team will get back to work. If it's sometime later this month, the normal 82-game regular season would turn into a 48-game dash, one that would seem to favor clubs like the Penguins.

Pittsburgh did little to overhaul its roster during the offseason, believing the core that fell to Philadelphia in the opening round of last spring's playoffs remains strong enough to compete for a Stanley Cup.

Other than the addition of center Brandon Sutter — acquired in a draft day trade that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina — the Penguins believe there will be little if any "getting to know you" time whenever the puck drops.

"We can look at that as a positive for sure," Crosby said. "Guys understand their roles and what they need to do and there's trust there. Maybe with some newer guys you have to develop that a little bit more but yeah I would say it can't hurt and it certainly helps a little bit to have that familiarity there."

While some Penguins, notably reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin, travelled overseas to cash a paycheck during the lockout, Crosby has been leading a handful of teammates onto the ice for drills four days a week. Thursday he lined up alongside normal linemates Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis for a little 4-on-4, placing the puck on top of his head then dropping it to the ice for face-offs in place of a linesman.

The hour-long session didn't quite match the intensity of a game, but there are also few places in the league that have shown as much solidarity during the four-month-old lockout. The Penguins believe that can only pay off when things get going for real.

"I think that that's definitely an advantage," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "I think we're going to find out (when the lockout ends) which teams took it seriously the last couple months (and) who decided to go on vacation."

Something there's been very little of in Pittsburgh. Crosby has basically lost two years of his prime while dealing with concussion-like symptoms and now a work stoppage. He never really got back up to full speed last year, scoring only eight times in 29 regular-season games. He picked it up in the playoffs, notching three goals in a wild six-game series with the Flyers.

Now healthy — and with a new contract that will keep him in Pittsburgh until his late-30s — Crosby is eager to etch his legacy in stone. Having familiar faces to work with in what could be something akin to the 1994-95 season that was limited to just 48 games could help him get off to a quick start.

Crosby has talked with Pittsburgh player development coach Bill Guerin about what it takes to navigate such a busy schedule. Guerin was part of the New Jersey Devils team that hoisted the Cup in 1995 after a three-month sprint.

The lesson Guerin imparted was simple: don't mess around.

"You don't have time to drop a bunch of games, it's pretty hard to catch up," Crosby said. "I think you have to be ready to find a way as best you can. Every team is kind of in the same situation trying to get ready quick but you really have to be as close to your best right away. Usually you have a whole season to find your identity. I think you have to find it a little bit quicker in a shorter season."

It's something the Penguins believe they can do provided they stay healthy. If anything, the lockout has provided the players who stuck close to Pittsburgh pretty good at running their own practices.

Forward Joe Vitale joked there's no need for coach Dan Bylsma to show up once things return to normal.

"If he can keep doing what he's doing, that'd be great," Vitale said with a laugh.

He's kidding. The well-liked Bylsma is one of the main reasons the Penguins have been among the most stable franchises in a league that sometimes struggles to find its footing. That shouldn't be a problem in Pittsburgh, which hopes a quick start will lead to an even better finish.

"Playing with the same guys for the most part, there's a comfort zone," Vitale said. "You can read off each other well, so there's not really as many growing pains."

___

Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

AP Sports Video
Poll

Should the NFL get rid of the extra-point attempt after a touchdown?

Yes
No
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow