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Kunitz Ready to Break Out

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Forward Chris Kunitz found instant success with Pittsburgh after the team acquired him from Anaheim in late February. The gritty winger posted seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 20 games in a Penguins sweater.

And while he has continued to contribute for the team – evidenced by his seven assists in 13 postseason games – he hasn’t been able to score a goal yet in the playoffs. But the coaching staff are pleased with the way he’s played and have faith in Kunitz.

“He hasn't scored a goal, but he's added to our team in different ways,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He adds to that line. We talked about the success of Sidney Crosby a lot in the last year. Chris Kunitz was on the ice for a lot of that success. While he hasn't had a goal, he's been a big part of our team's success.

"Every player has a foundation to their game. They have their role. Certainly Chris Kunitz is a guy who will end up on the score sheet. But his role is straight line, aggressive hockey to the net, physical. If things aren't going well for him, he should always make sure he returns to that foundation. We've talked about it. He has to focus.”

“You want to help out,” Kunitz said. “You want to be contributing in all ends and in all aspects of your game. That’s something that I have to step up and start doing.

“You try to do different areas of your game well, if that’s retrieving pucks or being physical, you try to do that. I want to go in straight lines and be physical. I want to play good defense and be in good position.”

Kunitz has been a force on the ice for the Penguins, particularly in the physical aspect of his game. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has delivered 37 hits in the playoffs, including a few devastating blows.

“It’s something where you go, if you’re in the right position you want to stop that guy from getting forward by getting body position,” he said. “If you can make a hit, make a hit. You don’t want to be running out of position because that hurts your team defensively. It’s something that if it’s there you take it. If not, then you go back and start all over.”

Obviously Kunitz wants to score goals for his team. And he’s created a number of quality scoring chances for himself with his aggressive play. But it’s just a situation where the puck hasn’t found it’s way into the net.

However, Kunitz is not looking back at missed opportunities and remains focused on scoring in the future.

“Those are in the past,” Kunitz said. “It’s nothing you can change now so you try to look forward and hopefully capitalize on your chances.”

And Kunitz remains confident that if he keeps playing the same way, the goals will come eventually.

“You have to move your feet; you have to go to the puck areas. That’s where the goals are scored in the playoffs,” Kunitz said. “It’s something that I’ll break out of and hopefully it comes soon.”

Notes: The Penguins held an optional at practice at Southpointe on Tuesday. The 12 players to participate were forwards Tyler Kennedy, Eric Godard, Petr Sykora, Pascal Dupuis, Jeff Taffe, Chris Minard and Dustin Jeffery, defensemen Philippe Boucher, Alex Goligoski and Ben Lovejoy and goaltenders Mathieu Garon and John Curry ... The Penguins practiced at Southpointe due to the Bruce Springsteen concert at Mellon Arena Tuesday evening. Practice will return to Mellon Arena on Wednesday.
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