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Despite slump, Crosby says Pens getting closer

by Phil Coffey /

"You don't like to lose three in a row, and I know we've lost some guys, so we've got to regroup. We've got to go home and find ways to win games. I think the big thing when you're missing guys is to simplify things."
-- Sidney Crosby

To be fair, about the only reason anyone would bring up a five-game pointless streak is because the name attached to said streak is Sidney Crosby.

Yes, the Penguins' captain has gone five games without notching a point. That's certainly more of a tribute to Crosby's often prolific offensive game that has seen him score 9 goals and 7 assists in 18 games this season and 141 goals and 272 assists in 308 career regular-season games.

Tuesday night made it five straight for Crosby as Pittsburgh was shut out by the Boston Bruins, 3-0.

"We generated some chances, and they did, too. They capitalized," Crosby told reporters after the loss in Boston. "We've still got to find a way to score goals, but, at the same time, I think we were happy with our game compared to the last game."

Crosby being Crosby, excuses are rejected out of hand, but there are factors to the Pens' recent struggles, most importantly injuries. Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang were unable to play against the Bruins. Defenseman Brooks Orpik was injured in the game.

Logic tells you that the opposition will be able to focus all the more on Crosby based on the calibre of players missing from the Pittsburgh lineup.

"Our goal was to keep an eye on him through the neutral zone," Bruins defenseman Derek Morris said. "We couldn't let him generate that speed through the middle. Bergie (Patrice Bergeron) did an unbelievable job of reading where he was going to be. Sturmie (Marco Sturm) a couple of times, too, and (Vladimir) Sobotka. You need help with a guy like that and we got it from our forwards."

"You don't like to lose three in a row, and I know we've lost some guys, so we've got to regroup," Crosby said. "We've got to go home and find ways to win games. I think the big thing when you're missing guys is to simplify things.

"I don't think it hurts me, usually it helps," Crosby told the team website about playing with additional pressure. "I don't think it's more pressure in a bad way. I usually get more out of myself because of that. It's something that has happened many times over the last few years in the NHL and juniors. I always felt like I've been better for it. It's not been a negative effect."

"At the end of the day when you analyze the great players there is a unique level that they are willing to put on themselves and expect of themselves," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told Sam Kasan of the Penguins' site. "What comes with those expectations and with that focus is the willingness to work beyond what we think as normal. They're focused on their game. They work on their game. They're trying to get better in the games. From the passerby, it's evident. It really stands out."

Crosby said the challenge for him is to play within himself and not try to do too much and carry the entire load on his shoulders.

"It's just natural," Crosby said. "You make sure your focus is there more than ever because you know it needs to be. You just work on things. You can react to it one way where you're squeezing the stick and trying to do everything yourself. That's not that the case (with me). I've been through it enough to know that doesn't work.

"Your focus is that much more. You make sure you're sharper in practice. When you go out for every shift you make sure you're doing everything you need to be doing. You need the absolute best out of yourself so you try to do it. If you think close to that anyway, it's good when you are in situations like that because you're used to doing it.

"It's been a long trip, a little bit longer when you lose a few," Crosby said of a 4-3 win in Anaheim that was followed by losses in Los Angeles, san Jose and Boston. "We want to go home. I guess tonight was a step in the right direction after the last couple of games we've played, but we've still got to be better. We've got to find ways to win."
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