PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Penguins coach Mike Johnston joined The Fan Morning Show on Monday morning to talk about the Pens as they prepare to begin the second half of the 2014-15 season.
Johnston says that his goal with Simon Despres has been to help him do a better job handling the ups and downs of the game.READ MORE: Person Hit, Killed By Driver Of Vehicle In Monroeville On Route 22
“I think for all defensemen at the NHL level, it’s a difficult transition,” Johnston said. “They come up from the minors or they come in through junior, and they make one mistake, and it’s often for a defenseman that if you make a mistake, it’s a critical mistake. It’s not like forward where you have defense behind you and a goaltender to cover up for you. And so for all young defensemen, I think it’s very similar to probably what Simon went through, [which] was when your confidence goes up and down, and then there comes a point where now you have to take the initiative and you have to just disregard.
“You don’t forget about the mistakes, but you park it for a while, especially during a game. You look at it after with the coaching staff, you correct it in practice, but you don’t dwell on it in a game. And I think that’s where Simon has gotten to right now,” he added. “He’s at a stage where if something happens on the ice, he gets rid of it. He parks it. He doesn’t get bogged down by some of those things, and I’ve found that he’s really rebounded well from game to game.”
While on the subject of young defensemen, Johnston also discussed the handling the development of a top prospect like Derrick Pouliot, who was sent down to Wilkes-Barre shortly after the interview. Johnston explained that he wants Pouliot to get a taste of success in the NHL, but still get the chance to refine his game with a bigger workload in the minors.READ MORE: ACLU, Voter Groups Sue In Ohio Over New Legislative Maps
“You want Derrick making plays,” Johnston said. “You want Derrick jumping up into the play. You want him quarterbacking the power play. Because he has the ability to do all of those things. He has to grow in the area of defending as far as battle goes. He’s very smart defensively, but he has to increase his battle level.”
He also told the guys that he plans to have his line combinations stay a bit more static from here on out.
“Usually, in the past, I’ve always been a coach that likes to have their lines together, and almost sticks with the lines too long before I’ll break them up,” Johnston said. “But this season, it’s been very unique, in that we’ve had so many injuries, and we actually, as a coaching staff, wanted to take a close look at some different combinations. Now we have a feel at the halfway point of the season who plays best with who. So you’ll start to see more combinations on a regular basis if there aren’t as many injuries as we’ve had.”
The interview can be heard here: