Olczyk stressing system during camp
The Penguins got serious with regard to their system on Wednesday, turning up the dial on a process that began the first day of training camp.
"We started implementing our defensive zone (coverage) from Day One," coach Ed Olczyk said. "(Yesterday,) we were getting into what we really want to try to get accomplished in the neutral zone and on the forecheck."
Olczyk had initially planned yesterday's practices in preparation for opening the exhibition season against the Washington Capitals tonight in Wilkes-Barre.
That was before that game was postponed yesterday afternoon due to anticipated weather complications created by Hurricane Isabel's trek through the Northeast.
Tonight's game was to be the first in a three-games-in-three-nights stretch that also includes exhibitions against the New York Islanders on Friday night in Wheeling, W. Va., and Saturday night at Mellon Arena.
Instead, the Penguins and Capitals will get together on 5 p.m., Sunday, in Wilkes-Barre.
The Penguins will have had a couple of chances to take their controlled-aggression forecheck for a test run by then.
"We talk about using our greatest asset, our speed," Olczyk said. "You have to read and react. If there's a 50-50 puck, we're reacting and guys are going and we're not sitting back on our heels."
By a "50-50 puck," Olczyk means one for which possession can be contested. In such instances, the Penguins are being instructed to spring into an attack mode from their 1-2-2 forecheck, which has traditionally been considered a more passive than aggressive approach.
When opposing defensemen or forwards have possession and have started their breakout, Olczyk wants his forecheckers to retreat and regroup in the neutral zone.
"If you're looking at a guy in his eyeballs, you don't force something that isn't there," Olczyk said. "If you see his backside, you're gone (in pursuit of the puck).
"We are going to be aggressive."
And the Penguins are going to take care of the neutral zone, Olczyk said.
"We have to clean that up big-time because I think over the last little while we've just left the middle of the ice way too advantageous for opponents," Olczyk said.
Olczyk had planned to dress the following lineup tonight against the Capitals:
Forwards: Ryan Malone, Michal Sivek, Colby Armstrong, Steve McKenna, Mike Eastwood, Eric Meloche, Matt Hussey, Shane Endicott, Michel Ouellet, Konstantin Koltsov, Rico Fata and Tom Kostopoulos.
Defensemen: Drake Berehowsky, Paul Bissonnette. Brooks Orpik, Brendan Buckley, Alexandre Rouleau and Rob Scuderi.
Goalies: Sebastien Caron (starter) and No. 1 pick Marc-Andre Fleury (backup).
Those plans are no subject to change.
"I found out (about the postponement) so late (yesterday) that we'll have to make a decision (this) morning," regarding the lineup, Olczyk said last night. "Having four games in five nights now is not the ideal situation (the Penguins are scheduled to meet the Bruins in Halifax on Tuesday). We have to take a step back, see where we are and re-evaluate."
Olczyk's intention is to play his goaltenders for entire games during the preseason.
Fleury's first start was to come on Saturday night, but that, too, is up in the air, Olczyk said.
"He's going to get his opportunity to play a couple games, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Olczyk said. "If you're looking at skill level, I don't think there's any doubt he has the attributes to be a National Hockey League goaltender, even at the age of 18.
"He works extremely hard and really, the sky's the limit for him. But as far as what's going to be better for him, he needs to play and play a lot. I'm sure that decision will be made, we'll get a good look at him, but he hasn't disappointed at all."