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No Message, Just Strategy With Canceled Practice



Mike Sullivan Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had a tentative plan for his extra free time Monday after he canceled the team’s practice.

“Maybe I’ll catch a rerun of ‘Game of Thrones’ and maybe go for a walk with my dogs,” Sullivan cracked after he called off the team’s on-ice session at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

It’s not that Sullivan is cavalier with his team down 3-0 and facing the prospect of being swept by the New York Islanders in their first-round playoff series. Game 4 is Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.

Rather, Sullivan found himself with a little bit of leisure time based on what he described as a well-thought-out plan for the team.

He noted that with Sunday’s 4-1 loss coming in a noon game, he has had plenty of time to devote to preparation.

“I spent the better part of (Sunday postgame) breaking the film down, and game planning for (Monday),” Sullivan said. “We were in here early (Monday) morning as a coaching staff and putting our heads together to make sure we had the right approach to our players today. We felt as though we had a productive day.”

Just one that ended earlier than normal with no practice.

There was no message-sending in the change in schedule.

“It’s something we had talked about and planned out based on the schedule before the series even started,” Sullivan said. “We skated eight days in a row, I believe, and we’ve also been in situations during the course of the regular season — the month of March in particular – where we played a lot of games every other day like we are now, and our team responded really well when we didn’t skate the day before and had morning skates and played. We have some history there to draw on.

“But part of it is based on when we got the schedule before the series started, We tried to plan out the course of the schedule as far as giving our team the opportunity to rest and recover and give them the best chance to have success game in and game out.”

The players accepted that.

“At this point, I don’t know if it’s tactical; we just needed some rest,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said.

Like their coach, the players were looking forward to a mental break for the balance of Monday.

Noted rink rat and hockey junkie Sidney Crosby planned to watch some playoff games Monday night.

“It’s a great time of year. There are lots of games on,” the team captain said. “Spend some time with family and treat it as a typical routine as far as getting ready.”

Goaltender Matt Murray had equally mundane plans.

“Probably just hang out with the family, maybe have a couple of the guys over, go for dinner or something,” Murray predicted of his extra time Monday. “Just a normal night.”

Defenseman Justin Schultz figured he would take a brief break from hockey other than checking in on some of the playoff games Monday night. He hoped to catch up on some highlights from The Masters golf tournament completed Sunday.

And one other thing.

“Stay off social media,” Schultz said with a smile.


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Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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