By Mike Harrington
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma met the media this afternoon at First Niagara Center just like he always would after any gameday skate. But the conversation was far from a normal one. Tonight's Penguins-Sabres game? Pffft to that. It was almost all Olympics and Ryan Miller chatter.
Bylsma and Co. have a wickedly tough decision to make in goal for Team USA next week in Sochi: Do they go with Miller, the hero of the Vancouver Games, or ride Los Angeles Jonathan Quick, less than two years removed from a Stanley Cup?
Bylsma had a good chuckle today when asked if Miller's body of work from Vancouver might have to tip the scales in his favor. Because he got peppered with similar questions about Quick when the Penguins were in Los Angeles just six days ago.
"I've been asked it a lot of different ways. I was asked it a little bit differently in LA," said a smiling Bylsma. "There's no question that Ryan Miller by all accounts was the best player maybe in the tournament in Vancouver. ... I'm a Miller family fan. I grew up in Michigan so it's not just Ryan that's a face or a name in USA and American hockey. And Ryan has certainly been that. He's had more than one USA mask on his face and he certainly was that in 2010, no question."
Bylsma said he's not locked into anything, including the widely-played theory that Miller and Quick will split the first two games (Feb. 13 vs. Slovakia and Feb. 15 against Russia) before Team USA settles on one guy.
The Penguins, in fact, beat Miller and Quick in back-to-back games last week so Bylsma had an up-close look at both goalies. Tonight's game in First Niagara Center will be his final one.
"Today is not the only body of work from Ryan," Bylsma said. "He's played really well this year. He's played really well in some different circumstances. He doesn't have a lot of wins to go with how well he played but with his save percentage and the saves he's made, he's played some of his best hockey."
Pens center and NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby, who beat Miller with the Golden Goal for Team Canada in Vancouver, has been a summer workout partner with Miller and many other players the last two years in California. He understands they're going to be forever linked by that play and by the shootout-winning goal in the 2008 Winter Classic in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"It's not something I've ever really talked about with him," Crosby said. "I've skated with him for a couple summers now. He's a good guy, works hard. He loves to play and loves to compete. As far as the situations we've been in, it's not a hot discussion topic but everybody tries to link those situations together.
"It's in the past. We're days away from the Olympics in Russia. Maybe after our careers, it's something we talk about. There are other things we both want to accomplish."
Some quick Crosby notes for tonight: He has 27 goals and NHL highs of 48 assists and 75 points but enters this one pointless back-to-back games for just the second time this year.
Crosby enters the game with a 16-point point streak against the Sabres dating to 2007 (9-17-26). Crosby has seven points in his last two games at the FNC (2-5-7) and points in all 13 career games he's played here (8-12-20). Crosby's Team Canada linemate, Chris Kunitz, did not take the morning skate and is a game-time decision
Click the audio files below to hear from Bylsma and Crosby, and you'll hear much more about the Olympics than tonight's game.
taggedOlympics | Pittsburgh Penguins | Ryan Miller