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Penguins feel right players, coaches are in place

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will not speculate on any potential organizational changes.

Two days after being eliminated by the New York Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Second Round, Penguins players reflected on another failed Stanley Cup Playoff run but avoided looking toward the future. They were consistent in their belief that the relationship between the players and coach Dan Bylsma and his staff was not fractured.

"You're going to hear a lot of that stuff and a lot of negativity and a lot of different rumors," captain Sidney Crosby said. "That's normal when you lose, and there's always people looking for reasons. But if we win [Game 7 against New York] we don't have to answer these questions. But that's the difference between winning and losing."

Crosby would not speak on if he thought a coaching change is necessary.

"I think that's for other people to decide," he said. "When you don't meet the expectations … I think you understand as an athlete and as being part of this team that the expectations are high, and if you don't deliver you have to own up to that as players and as an organization. So I think we all understand that.

"It's part of the way it works and we'll see what happens from here."

Crosby had one goal and two assists against the Rangers. He said he and his teammates feel responsible for Pittsburgh's early exit and the bulk of the blame should not be placed on the coaching staff. Defenseman Kris Letang reiterated Crosby's words by saying it was the players' responsibility to win Game 7 on Tuesday.

"The feeling in the room is that everyone's disappointed with the way we finished the season and we had great expectations for our team into the playoffs," Letang said. "But as far as the coaches, it's not something I really worry about. My job is to play hockey, and I think we have a great group of people directing our team and that's not my decision.

"A coach is a coach. It doesn't really matter. You have to do the job out there, and that was up to us to win those hockey games. Dan's not going to step out on the ice and play those games, so it was up to us to win those."

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and forwards Chris Kunitz, Brandon Sutter, Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak all said the relationship between Penguins players and coaches was healthy. Each also said he would be content if the same core group returned to begin next season.

Fleury, who had his most impressive postseason in several years, said he wishes to continue with the team that drafted him in 2003. Next season will be the final one on his seven-year, $35 million contract.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I really hope that I can stay," Fleury said. "It's my team here. It's where I want to play. … The organization from top to bottom [is why I want to stay]. Management, Mario [Lemieux, co-owner] and Ron [Burkle, co-owner], to the staff that we have, the players that we have, fans that we have, the support from the city.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

Sutter, who has played two seasons in Pittsburgh, as well as Goc and Stempniak, who were acquired at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, also said they would like to return to the Penguins in 2014-15. Sutter can become a restricted free agent this summer, and Goc and Stempniak can become unrestricted free agents.

The belief among the players who spoke Thursday is they can compete for a Stanley Cup with their current group. Letang mentioned that the Penguins were one win away from the Eastern Conference Final as he explained why he does not think there is a significant problem in Pittsburgh's locker room.

Crosby provided a simple explanation behind reports that the Penguins were not having fun late in their run.

"Winning's fun," Crosby said. "I think if you ask anyone after Game 4 if we were having fun, I think it would be a different answer than what we're feeling now. So it's hand-in-hand. When you win you have fun and everything's great, and when you lose it's disappointing and it's not a great feeling.

"So I think all those things, everything you're going to hear from here on in, there are going to be a lot of different rumors and things like that. But the bottom line is we didn't find a way to win."

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