PITTSBURGH — Joni Pitkanen isn't sure how many minutes he'll log tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins.
Twenty, 25, 30, 35 ... it doesn't matter to the Canes' sturdy, smooth-skating defenseman.
"It's the best time of the year to play," he said today after the morning skate at Mellon Arena. "It's playoff hockey. It's fun to play."
In Game 7 against the Bruins, Pitkanen was on the ice for 35:33. That was his season high and more than five minutes more than he played in any oher playoff game, but no complaints.
"Sometimes you get tired but I like to play and it's always fun to play," he said. "I felt the whole game was good. Our whole team was skating really good, and in the overtime we were really moving."
It should be more of the same against the Pens, who can skate and move.
"They have a couple of really good players but it's more about us. We're playing really good," Pitkanen said. "If we play the kind of game we've played before, we'll be fine. They have a good team but we're playing with a lot of confidence."
Pitkanen, who had two assists in Game 7 against the Bruins, has had a reputation of being an offensive defenseman. But that has changed, Canes coach Paul Maurice said today.
"When you look at the number of minutes he's played, and the number of minutes he's played and who he's played against, he's a defensive player first," Maurice said.