PITTSBURGH - The Penguins are a potential Stanley Cup favourite, but they have not played like one so far.
Pittsburgh lost two of its first three games, but the team isn't panicking.
"This is three games in," veteran forward Mark Recchi said after practice Friday. "I think we're talking nonsense right now. January, February, if we're in trouble, then we can start worrying about it, but right now this is the third game. This is a process of 82 games. We have to work to get better, and guys know we have to work hard."
Coach Michel Therrien didn't sound impressed with his team after a 3-2 loss to Montreal Wednesday night, but he was in a much better mood Friday after what he said was the team's second consecutive solid practice.
The Penguins' only two points this season came in a 5-4 win over a road-weary Anaheim team Oct. 5 that was playing its fifth game in eight days - all at least three time zones away from home after opening the season in London.
Still, by the time Pittsburgh takes the ice in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, only five other teams in the league will have played only three games. With the season only a week old, the Penguins aren't getting terribly concerned that they rank 27th in the league in goals-against average or 26th in penalty killing.
"It's very early in the season," Therrien said. "You want to carry the execution (over into games) and, you know what? Honestly, you need breaks sometimes, you know?"
Reigning league scoring champion Sidney Crosby's had "almost an empty net and hits the post. An inch, it's a goal," Therrien said, referring to one of several chances Crosby had in the Montreal loss.
"And there's times you need a big save but because of lack of concentration, it's not there and costs us some games right now. It's going to make us better in the long run," Therrien said.
The Penguins seem to understand, however, that merely relying on the law of averages won't be enough to turn things around. Recchi said the team understand it needs to work hard.
"These guys all have the right attitude. They know you have to find ways to win hockey games, ways to play hard for 60 minutes," Recchi said.
An early season schedule that sees Pittsburgh playing only two games in 10 days could help.
"I thought we had good intensity," Crosby said of recent practices. "I think we're executing pretty good. That's a good sign, obviously. With so much time between games, you want to take advantage of it and make sure everyone's sharp when the games come.
"We tried to work on all facets of the game the past couple days. But it just comes down to execution."