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Inside Scoop: No panic, McCann optimistic and more

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Thoughts, musings and observations from Pittsburgh's Saturday practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex…

* The Pens find themselves down 2-0 in their First Round series against the New York Islanders. Sunday's Game 3 contest won't be an elimination game, but it's as close to a "must-win" situation as possible for the Pens as falling behind 3-0 would be dire circumstances. 

However, there is no panic within the Pens locker room. 

"Go home, rest and focus on the next game," center Evgeni Malkin said. "We have a great team. I believe in this group."

This is the first time the Pens have been down 2-0 in a series since the 2013 Eastern Conference Final against Boston. But the Pens lost the opening two games of that series at home and were forced to play Games 3 and 4 on the road. This time the Pens just need to hold serve at home.

"I think our mindset has to be to go out there with the urgency and desperation to get a win," captain Sidney Crosby said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to get one (on Long Island), but we're coming back home and it's a big game."

Historically, the last time the Pens were down 2-0 in a series with Games 3 and 4 being played in Pittsburgh was the 2009 Stanley Cup Final against Detroit. That same year, Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 to the Capitals after losing the first two games in Washington. The Pens would win both series in seven games. 

"If they can win two in a row, we can do the same thing," Letang said. "I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that we're going to lose all four. We're confident in our group and we're coming into our building and trying to set the tone."

* Forward Jared McCann missed Game 2 with an upper-body injury. His status is day-to-day, but he said he's "optimistic" about returning to the lineup for Game 3. 

"I feel really good," McCann said. "(Yesterday) I didn't feel great and wasn't comfortable. Today is a different story. I feel good. We'll see where we go from here." 

McCann was slashed and cross-checked from behind by Cal Clutterbuck during Game 1. He was in obvious pain, but did not leave the game. McCann practiced the following day and took part in the Game 2 morning skate, but was a late scratch before the puck dropped. 

"It was a last-minute thing," McCann said. "I took an awkward hit and it didn't feel great. But I'm feeling a lot better today and I'm ready to go."

* The Pens were overwhelmed in Game 1 by the Islanders' forecheck. It was aggressive and effective, trapping Pittsburgh in its own zone for long stretches and draining the players' energy. 

The Pens made an adjustment by using a triangle approach in the zone with a low F1 to provide an outlet for the defensemen. The strategy worked as the Pens were able to escape their own zone efficiently. 

"I think their forechecking in Game 1 was really effective," Letang said. "That game was a lot of trouble. I think our last game we did pretty good coming out of our zone with tape-to-tape plays. For me, it basically means getting out of your zone with control and give your forwards a chance to establish either a forecheck or an entry on the defenseman."

* The Pens used the following workflow at Saturday's practice…

Guentzel-Crosby-Simon

Aston-Reese/McCann-Malkin-Kessel

Rust-Bjugstad-Kessel

Blueger-Cullen-Wilson

Dumoulin-Letang

Johnson-Schultz

Gudbranson-Pettersson

Maatta-Trotman

* Crosby and Jake Guentzel - the Pens' leading scorer and leading goal scorer respectively - have been held pointless over the first two games of the series. 

"I think as (Game 2) went on we got more and more (chances)," Guentzel said. "I think we can still create more, and we have to be better, and tomorrow's got to be our best."

* Late in Game 2, head coach Mike Sullivan placed Dominik Simon on a line with Crosby and Guentzel. And if things hold, that trio may remain together for Game 3. 

"Even though (Simon) may not score, his line scores and usually when his line scores he's part of it," Sullivan said. "Even though he hasn't had the finish we hoped he would develop over the course of the season there's a lot of attributes of his game that helps his line have success."

Simon has played alongside Crosby and Guentzel at times over the past two seasons, and he believes that familiarity will help. 

"I don't have to think about it," Simon said. "It's an unbelievable line to play with those guys, but you have to play your own game, doesn't matter what line you're on."

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