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Crosby admits Pens' PP should be better than it is

Saturday, 02.02.2013 / 1:00 AM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

Sidney Crosby agrees with the sentiment that any power-play unit that includes him and Evgeni Malkin should be effective all the time.

"A hundred percent it should," Crosby told NHL.com. "We've proven it."

So why isn't it? Why is the Pittsburgh Penguins' power play -- one that in fact does have Crosby and Malkin on the same unit -- 2-for-20 during this five-game stretch?

Could it possibly be that the Penguins' skill is getting in the way of actually getting the puck to where it needs to go?

"We think sometimes we're in Game 40 and we can make those through-the-seam passes when sometimes we don't have to," Crosby told NHL.com. "I think it's just a matter of making sure we keep it simple and let those plays come to us.

"You see it. It's pretty clear," he added. "You know the traits that make a good power play successful and sometimes it's the simplest things that open up the really nice play that everyone wants to see. You can't forget that."

The Penguins have admittedly forgotten that in the early part of this season. Instead of just getting the puck to the net, they've been focused on working it around the zone then trying to get ill-advised passes through.

"When teams have a man down, that's an opportunity for us to be creative and to make plays," Crosby said. "That being said, we need to find ways to either create shooting lanes or make plays, and one bad pass on a power play can pretty much ruin it. They get pressure and all of a sudden you're scrambling. It's about execution."

Time will still be the determining factor, but the Penguins may have started to turn the corner Thursday in their 3-0 win against the New York Rangers.

Not only did James Neal end up with a power-play goal off the sticks of Crosby and Malkin, but the Penguins had 10 shots on goal during six power-play chances. On the nine power-play chances -- across three games -- before Thursday, the Penguins managed 11 shots.

Pittsburgh scored with the man advantage early in the third period because instead of looking for the next great pass, Crosby got the puck from Malkin and zipped a slap-pass from the point that Neal tipped in through his legs.

"It's just shooting," Malkin said after the game Thursday.

CuJo addresses his Hall of Fame credentials

Former NHL goalie Curtis Joseph, who is fourth all-time in wins with 454, is thinking more and more about the Hockey Hall of Fame now that he's eligible for induction. Joseph told NHL.com he believes his credentials should at least warrant consideration from the 18-member voting committee.

Joseph was on the ballot for the first time in 2012.

"I do appearances and different events, so I talk about my career, which you never do when you're playing. So, sure, it comes back to whether you're Hall of Fame-worthy or not," Joseph said this week from the 11th annual Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp. "I'd like to think so.

"We're like pitchers and coaches, wins and losses," he added. "I was able to play a long time and accumulate a lot of wins. Being fourth in wins all-time, when I look back, I am proud of that accomplishment. I didn't play on any juggernaut teams except for Detroit when we won a Presidents' Trophy.

"Certainly 454 wins stands out as an accomplishment."

He's fifth all-time in games played with 943. Despite never winning the Stanley Cup, Joseph had a better goals-against average and save percentage (2.45 and .917) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than he did in the regular season (2.79 and .906).

Joseph acknowledges the fact he never won the Stanley Cup or the Vezina Trophy means he has two strikes against him. It's part of the reason why he said he wouldn't have even voted for himself on the first ballot.

"I think he is [a Hall of Famer]," Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr told NHL.com. "Unfortunately, he has never been on a championship team, but if you look at his numbers, the numbers of wins he has, he's gotten the job done. His biggest problem is there are so many guys coming up at the same time. That's going to be the hard part. The numbers are there. That's the easy part."

Fuhr: Make or break year for Dubnyk in Edmonton

From Fuhr's perspective as a Hall of Fame goalie living in Edmonton and following his old team, current Edmonton Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk has one of the most difficult tasks at the position this season.

Dubnyk, 26, is trying to prove to Edmonton's executives he has what it takes to be a No. 1 goalie for a contending team in the NHL. However, he has to prove it while playing behind a younger, unproven defense that could be excellent soon but has to deal with growing pains now.

"Each night is going to be different, but for him it's going to be, can he make the right save at the right time?" Fuhr told NHL.com. "It's not so much being great the whole night, but you have to make that one timely save that gets their feet underneath them.

"He has to understand that, yeah, you're going to give up some goals, but if you're losing 3-2 it can't go to 4-2. He has to figure that part out."

Fuhr, who does community relations for the Oilers, said he believes Dubnyk can figure it out and Edmonton can be contending for the Stanley Cup within three years.

"I think he understands [the expectations]. He's a very knowledgeable guy," Fuhr said. "I think he gets the pressure, understands that it is there. The fans have extremely high expectations and I think he knows that it's a short window. I think he's going to be a good goalie. He's got that potential where he can get them to a playoff spot and get a chance to shine."

Leetch: Kreider is New York's "wild card"

Former New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch, who now serves as a part-time analyst on the MSG Network, told NHL.com he believes injured rookie forward Chris Kreider is going to be one of the biggest keys to the Rangers' ultimate success this season.

"They have a vision of their 12 guys, and if it's not working, there are not a lot of pieces to put in there," Leetch said. "They will look, but Kreider is the wild card. He's got the size, the speed, all the NHL tools, but you need the production and you need him to fit in there.

"I think it'll be a three-month process to figure out if he's a guy that they're going to start the playoffs with, which they hope to do, or if he'll have to come in and replace an injured player and be the wild card there. It'll be interesting for him."

Leetch said he thought playing in the American Hockey League during the lockout would help Kreider, who joined the Rangers in the playoffs last season and had five goals. However, it turned out to be the exact opposite; Kreider put up 12 points in 31 games with the Connecticut Whale.

"I was worried when the NHL season started, is he going to be able to put some of the frustrations behind him and pick right up where he left off in the playoffs last year?" Leetch said. "He hasn't. He's kind of stuck in-between and a little unsure confidence-wise. They're kind of stuck now, like, 'What do we do?' I think it's going to be hard for him because he's lost some confidence after last year."

How close was Chelios to playing again?

According to 51-year-old Chris Chelios, he was willing and able to fill in for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings' AHL affiliate, last week when injuries limited them to five healthy defensemen on the roster.

Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill tells a different story.

"In Chris' fantasies," is how Nill described Chelios' chances of playing in an email to NHL.com.

Chelios, who spends three to four days a week working in Grand Rapids with the Griffins' blueliners, said he told Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill he would be able to play if necessary. Chelios had been skating regularly and working out, so he was serious -- at least for a little while.

"I'm sure Blashill could have hid me for six or seven minutes on the ice somewhere," Chelios told NHL.com. "Then I came to my senses and thank God they found a kid to play that night. Had Jim given the thumbs up, I'm stupid enough to do it."

Chelios said he would have had to sign a PTO in order to play with the Griffins. Instead, 23-year-old Erik Spady signed a PTO.

"Nothing surprises you with Cheli," Nill wrote. "He wanted too much money!!!!!"

Gretzky and the Blues?

Yes, Wayne Gretzky recently bought a home in the St. Louis area. Yes, St. Louis Blues owner Tom Stillman was Gretzky's guest at The Great One's annual fantasy camp this week. But, no, that doesn't mean Stillman is recruiting Gretzky to work for the Blues or that Gretzky has any plans to work there.

"My wife's family is from [St. Louis]. We spend time there. It's a great city," Gretzky told NHL.com. "There's a lot of wonderful people that we know there. So, whatever they [the Blues] would want me to do to try to help them push and promote hockey I would do that in a minute. That's what it is all about.

"But, to work on a full-time basis? No. Even a part-time basis? No."

Stillman said, "I don't claim to have any close relationship with him. He's been to St. Louis a few times and is just a wonderful guy to talk to, but I don't have a close friendship with him. I would quash any speculation like that. There is really nothing there to talk about."

Gretzky played 18 games for the Blues during the 1995-96 season.

Odds and ends

The Oilers have allowed nine goals in the 17 periods since giving up six goals in the first period to the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 22. Dubnyk, who was pulled after the first period against the Sharks, has a 1.75 goals-against average in the past 15 periods he's played.

Look for waiver-wire pickup Zach Boychuk to be playing on a line with Malkin and Neal when the Penguins face the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon at Consol Energy Center. Boychuk practiced on that line Friday, one day after the Penguins claimed him off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes, who drafted Boychuk in the first round (No. 14) of the 2008 NHL Draft but got 18 points in 73 NHL games out of him.

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has started six games and still doesn't have a win in regulation time this season. The longest Rinne previously waited to pick up his first regulation win was five starts (2009-10). Rinne, though, did pick up his first win of the season Thursday, when he gave up one goal and was good enough in the shootout for a 2-1 victory at the Los Angeles Kings.

Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek is on the best tear of his career with 15 points in six games. It's the most points Vanek has produced in a six-game span since he joined the NHL in 2005-06. Vanek has two five-point games this season after never recording one in 547 previous games.

QUOTEBOOK

"I put a pair of skates on [Monday] and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, these are the nicest skates I have ever worn.' I would practice in a new pair of skates pretty much for the whole year just to get them ready for the next season. Now you get a pair of skates, you put them on and you go on the ice and you're like, 'Wow, these are great.' Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr, the skates that they wore were basically a boot with a blade underneath and it wasn't even a good blade. With the way they could skate, if you could see those guys today in this equipment, it would be amazing to watch." -- Wayne Gretzky to NHL.com when talking about equipment today

"If I really wanted to play I'd probably go to Europe just to have fun. If my kids don't make it in the minors here and they want to go screw around in Europe for a couple of years, go to a nice country to play, I'd go with them whether it was coaching or playing. I'm still in good enough shape to play there. Anybody could play six or seven minutes on a good team. If I had my son next to me, he's 6-foot-3, so I wouldn't have anything to worry about." -- Chris Chelios to NHL.com when talking about the itch he still has

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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