Penguins notebook: Team takes road approach to deciding game
The Penguins played Game 7 at home on Tuesday night, but they tried to make it feel like a road game.
Upon returning to Pittsburgh from New York on Monday morning after Game 6, players spent the morning at their homes. A late-afternoon practice was held instead of the usual morning session.
Coaches and players spent Monday night at an area hotel, where they took part in team meetings and a meal. Charter buses transported them to and from Consol Energy Center for a practice Tuesday morning, and another team meal was held at the hotel before Game 7.
“It wasn't like we were at a Pee-Wee hockey tournament or anything,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said of the home hotel experience. “But it wasn't like a business meeting either. Went out for a team dinner and watched the (Boston-Montreal) game together. Just being around each other, keep our focus and get ready for (Game 7).”
The Penguins were 4-2 on the road in the playoffs and 14-11 overall away from Pittsburgh since winning the Cup in 2009.
Conversely, the Penguins were 3-3 at home this postseason and 15-16 over the last five playoffs.
Once again, the Penguins were without their longest-tenured player.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik missed a third consecutive game because of injury. His knee buckled during a collision with Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello in the first period of Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
Orpik missed eight of the Penguins' last nine games because of two separate injuries.
Winger Tanner Glass returned to the Penguins' lineup for Game 7. He was a healthy scratch in five previous games.
Glass skated on the third line with winger Lee Stempniak and center Brandon Sutter.
Winger Beau Bennett was a healthy scratch for Game 7. He had been a minus-3 over the last three games, registering only one shot during that span.
If feeling any tension over having turned a 3-1 series lead into Game 7, the Penguins did not show it at their Tuesday practice.
Coach Dan Bylsma cracked his stick off the ice and smiled at assistant coach Jacques Martin. Another assistant coach, Todd Reirden, celebrated a 120-foot bank shot that found the goal. Defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin playfully jockeyed for position.
The Penguins purposely took an ultra-relaxed approach, Niskanen said.
“There's enough pressure out there, outside pressure, all kinds of (stuff) going around,” Niskanen said. “Might as well make it fun. It's a game. It's a Game 7. Might as well make fun and bring it.”
The Rangers again did not hold a morning practice prior to Game 7. They also did that prior to Game 5, which they won to initially extend the series.
By not holding a morning practice, the Rangers were not required to have players meet with the media — though coach Alain Vigneault did hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Since the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School in April, local musician Jeff Jimerson has taken to allowing the crowd to sing a portion of the national anthem at home games.
Prior to Game 7, Jimerson let the crowd sing almost all of it — stopping his vocals after the opening line.
Rob Rossi and Jason Mackey are staff writers for Trib Total Media.