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If the Pittsburgh Penguins don't start winning games on the road, their struggles away from home could eventually cost the team a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
They already cost coach Michel Therrien his job.
After firing the coach that led them to last year's Stanley Cup finals and replacing him with AHL coach Dan Bylsma, the Penguins look for their second road win since the beginning of January as they meet the New York Islanders in a Atlantic Division matchup Monday.
Pittsburgh recorded more than 100 points in each of its two full seasons under Therrien. It won the Atlantic title last season and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992, falling to Detroit in six games.
The Penguins, though, have struggled to a 27-25-5 record this season despite having the top two scorers in the league in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. They're in 10th-place in the East, five points out of the eighth and the final playoff spot.
Pittsburgh's been especially bad on the road lately, going 1-7-1 since Jan. 1. The club announced Therrien's firing Sunday, the day after the Penguins blew a 2-0 lead in a 6-2 loss in Toronto. The Maple Leafs, who scored five times in the third period, entered the game with a 9-10-6 home record.
"We believe we need a change in direction and, with 25 games remaining in the regular season, our goal remains to finish strong and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs," general manager Ray Shero said in a statement.
They hope to do so under Bylsma, previously the coach of the Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The 38-year-old, who played nine seasons in the NHL as a right winger with Los Angeles and Anaheim from 1995-2004, had gone 35-16-1-2 in his first season with the baby Penguins.
"Dan Bylsma is one of the bright young coaches in the game and has done an exceptional job as the head coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season," Shero said.
Bylsma did not criticize Therrien's approach, but said it's clear to him the Penguins need to get back to being a fast, offensive-driven team.
"With the strengths we have, we should be able to go into buildings and make teams deal with the quality of players we have at every position," he said. "I look at a group that can win games right now, and we need to do that. We can do this, but the players have to believe we can do this."
Bylsma will go for his first win as an NHL coach against a last-place Islanders team the Penguins have dominated this season. The Islanders (16-33-6) have been outscored 17-8 in going 0-2-1 against the Penguins, including 0-1-1 at Nassau Coliseum.
Malkin and Penguins wingers Pascal Dupuis and Petr Sykora each have a hat trick against New York this season. Dupuis and Sykora recorded their hat tricks in the same game, a 9-2 home victory the last time these teams met Dec. 11.
The Penguins hadn't scored nine goals since Feb. 7, 2001, while the Islanders hadn't given up that many since Dec. 19, 2005.
The Islanders haven't fared any better lately than they have against the Penguins this season. They lost 5-1 in Philadelphia on Saturday to fall to 0-4-1 following a season-high four-game winning streak from Jan. 21-Feb. 3.
Other than a slow start, Islanders coach Scott Gordon didn't have many complaints about his team's play Saturday.
"We weren't very sharp at the beginning of the game and it took us a few shifts to get our legs under us," he told the team's official Web site. "One thing our guys haven't done is laid down and quit. We went down 2-0 early, but from that point on, until they scored in the third, I thought we did some positive things."