Still in search of an elusive first victory, the Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Boston on Saturday to take on the Bruins at 7 p.m.
The game will be televised exclusively on UPN and broadcast on the radio on 3WS (94.5 FM). Airtime for the radio program is 6:30 p.m.
The Penguins (0-3-4) set a franchise record by going winless in their first seven games to start the year.
“It’s not fun when you go through stuff like this. We all take it hard and if you don’t, you shouldn’t be here,” Penguins forward Mark Recchi said. “We’re all competitive people and we’re here for a reason. We just have to find a way to get the competitive level to a point on the ice where we need it.”
The Bruins don’t offer an easy challenge for the Penguins. Boston beat the Penguins, 7-6, in overtime on Oct. 8 in Pittsburgh in the third game of the season.
“It’s everybody, it’s the foundation, it’s the core – it’s everything together. We’re very disappointed, but we need to continue to find a way to play better,” Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. “As far as the coaches are concerned, we continue to show them and talk to them and give them positive and constructive criticism and go from there.
“We look at our players and know that we have confidence in them. Now it’s up to them to reinforce that confidence we have in them,” he continued. “We’ve made a lot of lineup changes, sent guys in and out of the lineup and [Saturday] we’re going to make a few more changes. We need everybody to be better. I know that I need to find a way to get our team a win. We have to continue to do what we believe is right. I know I need to do better and that goes down all the way through.”
Only nine players of 25 players remain from last season’s Penguins opening-day roster. However, Recchi believes the unfamiliarity among the team is gone.
“It shouldn’t be chemistry. We all know how to play the game, we’re just not playing the game properly,” he said. “If you play the game properly, chemistry falls into place. It’s a hard league and if you don’t come prepared to out battle other people and you don’t want to go above and beyond just hard work, you’re going to make it hard on yourself just like we are now.
“I think it’s up to the guys in the dressing room to do the proper things,” he continued. “You don’t do the proper things, you don’t win hockey games. It’s hard to win in this league. If you’re not committed to doing the right things, you’re not going to win hockey games. If you’re not committed to beating people to loose pucks, to winning battles, you’re not going to win.”
Early deficits and costly penalties have plagued the Penguins all season. In its seven games, Pittsburgh has led in just one – the Oct. 8 contest against Boston. The Penguins led for nearly three-quarters of that game (39:43 of 60:00), but fell in overtime when Boston’s Glen Murray scored.
“You have to challenge each other. The coaches have to challenge the players and the players have to challenge the coaches in a respectful way. Everybody understands that,” Olczyk said. “[The losing skid] is a collective problem for us and we’re the ones who have to find a way to get out of it. Even though we have some new players, we’ve all been through tough times and faced adversity. We’ve battled and battled and been competitive. We haven’t licked a stamp and mailed it in at any time and that’s a credit to the players to continue to work regardless of the score or the situation. But, getting in those situations has been a major problem – getting down and coming back.”
The Penguins get a chance to work through everything in a big way. The team embarks on a hectic stretch in which it plays 20 games in 43 days starting with Saturday’s contest in Boston. The Penguins close out October with four games in 10 days and play 14 games in 30 days in November. The team’s next break of more than two days is Dec. 4-7.
“We’ve had a little bit of everything early – four games in six nights, a couple days off and play two. Now, we’re going pretty much every other night now for the next little while,” Olczyk said. “Right now, we have an opportunity to work ourselves out of it and that’s the only way it’s going to happen is by playing games and continuing to talk.”
Recchi welcomes the long stretch of games.
“It’s going to be nice to get a lot of games. We play basically every other night from now until just before Christmas. Guys like that,” he said. “It can be one of two things: either it can keep snowballing or else we could find a groove and the right way to play. Hopefully, we make a commitment and do the right things.”
Olczyk believes, without a doubt, the Penguins are capable of transforming their losing streak into a winning one.
“Once we get that feel of a win and taste of a win, we’re going to regain some of that confidence we’ve lost. We know we’re going to win games – we know that,” he said. “If there’s ever a feeling that we’re not going to be able to do that, well there’s the door and don’t like it hit you on the way out. The best thing about history is that you learn from it. In the games that we’ve played, we’ve played some good hockey and we haven’t played very well at times. It’s up to all of us to find the consistency level that we’re looking for. We need everybody to do their part.”
The Penguins return home to Mellon Arena on Tuesday to battle the Florida Panthers at 7:30 p.m.