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Inside Scoop: Pens-Isles (Game 4)

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' morning skate prior to Game 4 against the NY Islanders…

* WORKFLOW

The Pens had full attendance after a day off on Monday. These are the lines they used…

McCann-Crosby-Guentzel 

Rust-Malkin-Kessel 

Simon-Bjugstad-Hornqvist 

Aston-Reese-Cullen-Wilson 

Dumoulin-Letang 

Johnson-Schultz 

Pettersson-Gudbranson 

Maatta, Trotman and Ruhwedel rotated.

When it comes to the thought process behind these combinations, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said it was about familiarity and flexibility. There are certain tandems that have played together fairly consistently all year long, and it's about moving the right players alongside them.

"We've moved other guys around those tandems throughout the course of the year based on circumstance," Sullivan said. "How well guys are playing, what we think the team needs at the time. There are certain pairs or certain tandems that we think have had success. So based on certain situations, we try to make the best decisions. We'll see how it goes."

* FIRST LINE

While the Pens as a whole have struggled to produce, the tandem of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel have been uncharacteristically quiet in this series as both players are pointless through the first three games. They're hoping that adding McCann to their line will help get them going offensively.

"He's a guy who plays with a lot of speed and has a really good shot," Guentzel said. "Obviously we've had success and we need that tonight, so hopefully it starts with us."

"I think we're skilled players that work well together," McCann added. "There's just that chemistry there and obviously we played together during the regular season, we had some good games and I feel like this is going to be one of them."

Guentzel in particular tends to score in bunches during the playoffs, so it's been frustrating for him to be held off the scoresheet. But it's not for lack of trying, and the Pens are confident that those chances will start to fall for him.

"Jake had some pretty good scoring chances in the last game," Sullivan said. "To our calculation, he had three high quality chances. He usually scores when he gets those looks. We'll just stay with it. He's a good player."

* POWER PLAY

Guentzel practiced on the top power-play unit, replacing Patric Hornqvist, who is usually the net-front presence with that group.

"Jake is just a little bit of a different type of player than Horny," Sullivan said. "We can use both of them. We have all year long."

During his press conference this morning, Sullivan admitted that he jokes with Guentzel about leaving the 40-goal scorer off the top power-play unit.

"I always say to him, 'Do you ever go home and say, this coach is crazy. I'm the leading goal scorer on the team and I'm on the second power play,'" Sullivan said. "And there's some validity to that."

Of course, the media asked Sullivan what Jake's answer to that is.

"Well, his answer is politically correct," Sullivan smiled. "We got a pretty good power play."

They believe that the power play, which is 1-for-8 so far in the series, has actually had a lot of good looks, so they think they're close to breaking through. Guentzel hopes he can help put them over the edge in that regard.

"I think they've been getting chances, it's just sometimes bounces aren't going our way," he said. "So I'm just going to try and get to the front of the net and create some space for them."

* MENTALITY

Despite being down 3-0 in the series with their season on the line tonight, the Pens weren't all doom and gloom during their morning skate and in the locker room after. The players had good energy, they were focused and are viewing this as an opportunity.

"It's do or die. It's not the position you want to be in, but it can be something special," Guentzel said. "We just have to take it game by game and see how it goes."

Some of the Pens' veteran leaders were asked if there's anything that needs to be said before the game.

"No," Kris Letang said. "I don't think there's anything to say. We all feel the same thing right now and hopefully it brings the urgency on our team and we play the best game of the year."

"We know the position we're in," Crosby added. "We understand that the focus and mindset has to be to come out here and win a hockey game. We can't get it all back at once, so the margin for error is small, but we have to come out here and win a game at home."

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