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Struggling Penguins confident goals will come

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- Dan Bylsma compared the Pittsburgh Penguins’ scoring problems to a baseball player in a batting slump being worried about when he'll get his next hit.

The difference is the Penguins aren't worried about when they'll score their next goal, not with the chances they've been getting and the firepower they know they have.

"You don't always look at the production as an indicator that you're doing the right things," Bylsma said.

Offensive-zone time, shots on goal, shot attempts, and chances for and against are some of the key stats coaches look at to judge how their team is playing. Production, though, is all that matters in the end, and the Penguins haven't gotten enough of it in the past 12 games.

Pittsburgh enters its game against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) having lost four of its past five games and seven of the past 12 because they simply haven't scored enough goals.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 25
SOG: 73 | +/-: 3
Despite scoring four goals against the Nashville Predators this past Friday, the Penguins still only have eight goals in the past five games and 25 in the past 12 after opening the season with seven wins and 30 goals in their first eight games.

Some of the biggest culprits are Pittsburgh's best players.

Evgeni Malkin hasn't scored in 13 straight games, the longest drought of his career. Sidney Crosby has one goal in the past 10.

The blue line isn't helping either. Kris Letang has four goals in 11 games. But Matt Niskanen has only three points in his past 13, and rookie Olli Maatta has gone pointless in the past 12 after a strong start.

However, even after a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, a game in which the Penguins' only goal came on a Chris Kunitz breakaway, Crosby and Co. struggled to find much fault with their game.

It's hard to argue with their optimism.

Pittsburgh had 28 shots on goal and several quality scoring chances. The Penguins were 0-for-4 on the power play, but still managed 11 shots and 15 total attempts at the net during the eight minutes they had with the man advantage.

"At the end of the day, you've gotta score, but if you're getting chances, I mean, I don't know what you really change," Crosby said. "You try to go to the net just as much, work on those little things like stop at the net, get a screen, competing down at those areas. But ultimately, it's a matter of putting it in when you get a chance. We just gotta find ways to get pucks to the net and trust that if we keep doing those things consistently, not sometimes, we'll find ways to score consistently."

Despite the 28 shots Saturday, Bylsma said directing pucks at the net was a problem for the Penguins in the second period, when the game was still tied at 1-1. He thinks they passed on too many chances, but that typically happens when teams are struggling to score.

"We had three or four good chances in the second period and we didn't shoot the puck," Bylsma said. "We passed on those opportunities, and they were good people with good opportunities to shoot the puck and we didn't take them."

"We had three or four good chances in the second period and we didn't shoot the puck. We passed on those opportunities, and they were good people with good opportunities to shoot the puck and we didn't take them."
-- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on his team's performance on Saturday

Malkin was certainly a guilty party. He had time and space with the puck on his forehand in the right circle, but instead of shooting he did a spin-o-rama and tried to beat Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with his backhand.

"It's a matter of bearing down on our chances," James Neal told "They're there."

And they've been there throughout the Penguins' dry stretch. They're averaging almost 31 shots on goal per game over this 12-game stretch.

They had 34 in a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 21, 42 in a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Oct. 25, and 38 in a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs the next night. As recently as this past Wednesday, when they played against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins had a 31-21 advantage in shots on goal, including 16-8 in the first period, but still lost the game, 2-1.

The St. Louis Blues were the only team to bottle them up, holding the Penguins to 20 shots on goal in a 2-1 win on Nov. 9. The Blues, though, bottle up just about every team they face.

"We have been in tight games, one-goal games, and haven't been able to win them," Bylsma said. "That's the common theme."

The other common theme is the Penguins haven't been giving up too many chances either. They're giving up only 25.2 shots on goal per game and have only been outscored 28-25 in the past 12 games.

But unless Crosby, Malkin, Neal and the rest of the Penguins start turning their offensive-zone time and quality opportunities into goals, even a select few chances against per game will continue to be too many.

"You can't make excuses," Neal said. "You have to find a way to put the puck in the net. We know that in here."

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