The Penguins begin a four-game road trip that will take them through West Coast cities Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, before concluding back east with a matchup against the Boston Bruins, beginning Tuesday night when they take on the Ducks at 10 p.m. Pittsburgh, which flew to Anaheim on Sunday afternoon, will look to continue their strong play away from Mellon Arena, where they are 6-0 in 2009-10, and 14-2-3 all-time in the regular season under head coach Dan Bylsma.
“This will be a chance to go on the road; a week trip going out west,” Bylsma said. “We should have some time to focus on our game and this is a trip you circle. This is a good time for our team to go out on the road. We’re looking forward to a little bit of rest and getting on the road.”
A win against Anaheim would give the Penguins seven consecutive road victories from the start of the season, tying an NHL record previously established by the 1940 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1985 Philadelphia Flyers and 2005 Detroit Red Wings.
The Penguins are off to a great start this season with an 11-3 record. During the month of October the played 14 times, tying the team record (set in 1981-82). October saw the Penguins play four sets of back-to-back games to go along with a four-game, seven-day road trip.
Along the way the Penguins watched three important members of their lineup exit due to injury – Sergei Gonchar (broken left wrist; out four-to-six weeks), Tyler Kennedy
(undisclosed; day-to-day) and Evgeni Malkin
(shoulder strain; out two-to-three weeks). Such injuries forced key players to step up and assume more ice time, always a difficult task during stretches such as the three-games-in-four-day span the Penguins just encountered.
Pittsburgh easily disposed of Montreal, 6-1, on Wednesday, after which it was learned Malkin would be sitting out the next few weeks. They made a dramatic third-period comeback Friday with two goals 39 seconds apart within the final three minutes of the third period at Columbus. Finally, they dropped a 2-1 decision to Minnesota at Mellon Arena on Saturday despite outshooting the Wild, 35-15.
Bylsma said following the Minnesota game he believes a trip out west and a less-condensed November schedule should allow the Penguins to get their feet back under them.
“We played three (games) in four nights; that’s a lot of hockey,” Bylsma said. “Things were spread out a little bit out on the road and hopefully we’ll get a little healthier as we go this week. It’s a lot of hockey, it’s a pretty tired team, we played hard in that stretch with a shortened lineup due to injuries and the guys battled real hard.”
The schedule will be a lot easier on the Penguins over the next month, even with nine of the 14 contests played away from the confines of Mellon Arena. They will have just one set of back-to-backs, an afternoon game on Long Island Nov. 27 allowing for extra rest before a home game the following night against the New York Rangers.
This upcoming trip marks the Penguins third road trip of four games or more since Bylsma took over on Feb. 15 of last season. Their record in those games: 9-0.
With their season hanging in the balance, Pittsburgh went 5-0 last season on a trip from Feb. 27-March 5 to turn their ship around and lay the groundwork for a thrilling run to a Stanley Cup championship. During their perfect 4-0 road swing during this campaign, the Penguins outscored teams 17-9.
By playing the same system no matter the venue and opposition, the Penguins have developed into one of the toughest road teams in the National Hockey League. This upcoming trip will not be easy as the four teams have a combined record of 28-20-6. However the team’s leave-it-all-on-the-ice approach should allow them to continue their successful start to the season.