Penguins notebook: Ex-Flyers coach welcomed inside Penguins' dressing room Thursday
The Olympics can create unforgettable images.
Coach Dan Bylsma jokingly downplayed one Thursday morning from inside the Penguins' lounge at Consol Energy Center.
Peter Laviolette — less than two years removed from guiding the Philadelphia Flyers past Bylsma's squad in a heated Stanley Cup playoffs opening series — enjoyed a bowl of cereal while talking with Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
That conversation was briefly halted as Laviolette and Bylsma, each man smiling, shared a handshake.
Laviolette and Penguins assistant Tony Granato will work for Bylsma, who is the coach for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The coaches met Thursday afternoon with Shero, who is the assistant to Team USA general manager David Poile, his longtime Nashville Predators mentor. The Predators play the Penguins on Friday night, and Poile arrived Wednesday to meet with Shero. The rivalry between Bylsma and Laviolette, who was fired three games into the season, turned friendly because of a shared vision of leading the United States to its first gold medal in men's hockey since the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“Coaching against Peter, there were things about his teams,” Bylsma said. “Detail. When you play a same team over and over and over again, you get a little bit of a sense of the game planning the opposition does — and we certainly know that about him. We've talked a little about that in our preparation now.
“The other thing is he's got a very good motivation sense about himself, his team and his players.”
Laviolette has spent his post-Flyers days traveling across North America scouting players for inclusion on Team USA's roster, which is expected to be set around New Year's Day.
One American on Bylsma's radar is Predators defenseman Seth Jones, who has averaged almost 25 minutes per game as a 19-year-old rookie. Jones was the fourth overall pick at the most recent NHL Entry Draft.
Once the presumptive first overall pick, he could end up winning a gold medal before playing in his first Cup playoff game.
He said the Olympics “are not really” on his mind but added it is “pretty cool” to know Bylsma has made a habit of watching him from afar.
“Everyone's dream is to play at the Olympics, and my goal is to make it this year,” Jones said. “But it doesn't affect me in any way. I'm going to play, even if (Bylsma) doesn't watch me, the same way and focus on things here with Nashville.”
Jones also joked that he “grew up watching” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, against whom he will play for the first time Friday.
Paul Martin participated in an optional practice for players Thursday and could play against the Predators.
“We saw him in some power drills, and he looked pretty good,” Bylsma said. “I am optimistic that he is possible to return.”
Martin (lower body) has missed the past two games.
Around the boards
An outdoor game between the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field will be broadcast nationally by NBC at 8 p.m. March 1.
This will mark the first regular-season game televised at night by NBC since the Penguins and Washington Capitals played in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2011, at Heinz Field.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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