Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher insists Sidney Crosby will play, but does he mean today?
So, what do we really have here? Does Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher really know something or is the guy with a degree in applied psychology playing some mind games?
Boucher on Wednesday insisted Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who has not played since Jan. 5, will play. Did he mean in today's Game 1 or just at some point in the series that begins today at the Consol Energy Center? Boucher was not clear, but it is clear he is taking the prudent course in preparing his team as if they will be facing the world's best player.
"He'll play. That's how we're approaching this," he said. "We're expecting him to play and play at his best."
But here's the lay of the land. Crosby did skate this morning and he worked with the top power play unit. But he apparently has not yet been cleared for contact, and one would believe Crosby would need at least a couple of practices in which he is bumped around a bit before the Penguins are sure he is ready to play.
Still, Boucher said, "He's a warrior," and "I saw the gleam in his eyes."
Boucher knows Crosby well. He coached him in juniors at Rimouski, so perhaps there is something there. Sounds, though, he is just preparing for anything. And if he can psyche up his team in the process, so be it.
"We're approaching this team as if we're playing the best team in the league," Boucher said. "These guys are really good. They've had a great stretch and are well-coached. They've done everything they're done because they play real hard."
"They're a great team regardless," center Steven Stamkos said of whether Crosby plays or not. "They're a different team with him, but if we're worried about whether he's going to play or not, that's what they want. It's taking the focus off our game plan. For us, we're not worried about that. We're worried about what we have to do to beat these guys."
Other stuff from the morning skate: As if anyone had to tell you, Dwayne Roloson gets the start in net for Tampa Bay. ... Defenseman Randy Jones, out 16 games with a high ankle sprain, is available to play but likely will sit out. "I've got to be realistic as well," Jones said. "I haven't played in a month and a half, and the lineup we've had the last couple of weeks has been playing real well. So, why change?" ... Defenseman Matt Smaby, with a lower-body injury sustained in Saturday's game with Carolina, is out. Marc-Andre Bergeron came off the ice late this morning, usually an indication a player is scratched. But we'll see." ... Captain Vinny Lecavalier will continue wearing a visor. He was under doctors orders to wear a visor at least through the regular season after he was poked in the right eye with a stick blade April 3 in Chicago. But Vinny said he has gotten sued to it and it has not affected his game. We'll see if he carries that into next season. ... On the message board in the Lightning locker room at the Consol Energy Center was this: "Great day for playoff hockey. Embrace and savor the moment" - WF. The message was from assistant coach Wayne Fleming, who did not travel with the team after being diagnosed last week with a malignant brain tumor. "He's motivating us and we're going to play for him in the playoffs and play hard for him," Lecavalier said. "I know he'll be watching the games and texting. He'll definitely be part of it." ... To motivate those in their first postseason and to remind those who went through it, Lightning players on Tuesday watched a DVD of the 2004 Stanley Cup run. It began on the bus ride from the Pittsburgh airport to the team hotel, and concluded on the bus ride from the hotel to the team dinner. "It was more for the guys who haven't gone through it to see how it is," Lecavalier said. "It gave them the feel of how the atmosphere was in the playoffs, and how it's an emotional roller coaster." Said Stamkos: "You see the competitiveness and the sacrifice those guys made. Your best players have to be your best players. I'm excited for that opportunity." ... Former Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, on a Pittsburgh media web site, said the Penguins might be able to rattle Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, to which Hedman replied, "Obviously, it's not going to happen. This is the type of year you have to stay calm all the time. If they want to try to get under my skin and think that's going to help them, go ahead. I'm ready for it. I'm not going to be taking any stupid penalties." Many still believe, wrongly, I might add, that Hedman's hit on Crosby caused Crosby's concussion. They might want to check the replay of David Steckel's hit on Sid. Asked if he expected a negative reaction from fans, Hedman said, "If there is, I just have to face it." ... Nice take from Boucher on handling emotions of playoffs: "It's my 83rd game in the NHL and I'm pretty sure the nets are going to be right in the middle of the ice and the red line is going to be right in the middle, too. I don't want to get caught up in all that excitement. It's important for me and important for my players that we're calm about going into these playoffs. This is our 83rd game of the season. We don't have to be different. We just have to be ourselves." ... Former Lightning assistant coach Wes Walz tweated he believes the Lightning will win the series. ... With the Rays rained out, the Lightning game has been moved to 620-AM.