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Guentzel confident Penguins can three-peat

Forward believes leadership group, coaching staff key to winning Stanley Cup again

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- Forward Jake Guentzel knows winning a third straight Stanley Cup won't be easy, but believes the Pittsburgh Penguins are capable of doing it.  

The Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators in six games in June to win the Cup for the second straight season. They were the first team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. No team has won the Cup in three straight seasons since the New York Islanders won it four times from 1980-83.

"I have no doubt we can do big things again this season," Guentzel said Wednesday. "I think our leadership group is so good. They set the tone right away in training camp, what it's going to be like and how you've got to play if you want to win. We're lucky we have a great coaching staff to help us win too.

"With those two things leading the way there's no reason we can't [win the Cup again]. We just need to start things off on the right foot and go from there."

While centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remain the centerpiece of the team, the Penguins have some holes to fill. During free agency, they lost centers Nick Bonino (Predators) and Matt Cullen (Minnesota Wild), left wing Chris Kunitz (Tampa Bay Lightning), and defensemen Trevor Daley (Detroit Red Wings) and Ron Hainsey (Toronto Maple Leafs). Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

Video: Looking ahead to the Penguins in the 2017-18 season

"I think we definitely lost some big pieces, but it hasn't been a complete overhaul," Guentzel said. "Those guys were great leaders and I learned a lot from them and I am happy I had the chance to be their teammate. … But we have to move forward with the team we have and hope we can continue on the success we've built."

Guentzel, 22, scored twice in his NHL debut against the New York Rangers on Nov. 21, and had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 40 games last season. He led the League with 13 goals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and had 21 points, which tied forward Dino Ciccarelli of the 1981 Minnesota North Stars and Ville Leino of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers for the rookie playoff record.

"I definitely had a good year, our entire team did, but you've got to move past it," Guentzel said. "For me in particular, I know I've really got to work hard because I know it's going to be even tougher next year. So I've been working hard, skating a lot, and I'm looking forward to getting into [training] camp to continue to work toward the season."

Guentzel said he can sense the pressure on him and the Penguins, but prefers to use it as motivation heading into this season.

"You realize how hard it was for us to get two [Cup titles], and you know everyone's going to be coming for us, but I think it just drives us," Guentzel said. "If you want to win, you want to be in that situation where everyone is gunning for you. They are gunning for you because they know you're the team to beat. That's a position we want to be in. It's going to be fun."

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