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Penguins Report: Pens Depart for Road Trip

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins boarded a flight to New York on Friday after completing a practice at Mellon Arena. The team will spend the next nine days on the road and won’t return to Pittsburgh until November 2.

“We’re going for a long stretch on the road and we’re ready to go,” Maxime Talbot said. “We’ve been playing better and we have to keep doing the good things.”

Pittsburgh will face the New York Rangers on Saturday night and then start a West Coast swing against San Jose (Tuesday) and Phoenix (Thursday). The Penguins finish the four-game road trip at St. Louis on Nov. 1.

“Whenever you go out west you’re going to be tested,” Sidney Crosby said. “We always look at these trips as challenges and we’re playing some good hockey teams. It will be a great test for us.”

Six of the Penguins next seven games will be played away from Mellon Arena. After the current four-game swing, Pittsburgh returns home for a game on Nov. 6 against the Edmonton Oilers before departing for two more road games, against the New York Islanders (Nov. 8) and Detroit Red Wings (Nov. 11).

“You travel one day and the next day you play a game,” Ruslan Fedotenko said. “For me, I like that. We’re playing every other day. We just go and get on the road and get as many points as we can get.”

> Hal Gill did not participate in practice on Friday but he did skate and worked on drills before practice with the Penguins strength and conditioning coach, Mike Kadar. Gill’s status for Saturday’s game in New York is unknown.

“He’s day-to-day,” Therrien said. “Maybe he’ll be ready to play (Saturday). Maybe he won’t. I don’t know.”

Matt Cooke missed four consecutive games with a rib injury, but participated in practice for the third straight day. All signs point to his return on Saturday.

“The final decision will be made tomorrow but it looks like he’s going to be there,” Therrien said.

If Gill can’t go, that leaves Pittsburgh with only six healthy defensemen for their four-game road trip. Therrien said no roster moves are eminent but the team will explore all of its options.

“We have time between games,” Therrien said. “If we need a defenseman, we have time to call players.”

> Pittsburgh’s 4-1 victory over Carolina on Thursday night was the team’s most complete game. Not only did the team play as a cohesive unit, but they had goal contributions from the top three lines.

“We need contributions from everyone,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “Everyone has responsibilities offensively and defensively as well. I liked the way that the team effort was there (Thursday).”

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored for the first line, Fedotenko for the second and Talbot for the third.

“That’s great,” Crosby said. “It’s not going to happen every game. Some games it’s going to be the second, third or fourth line coming up big. Other games the first line, so to speak, has to chip in. You need everybody and timing is everything. We got some huge goals from everyone (Thursday) night.”

> In Thursday’s game, the Penguins nearly had a goal contribution from the goalie.

With Pittsburgh holding a 3-1 lead late in the third period, Marc-Andre Fleury took a shot at getting an empty-net goal. He intercepted the puck behind the cage and threw a shot towards the Hurricanes net. The puck skidded just a few feet left of the goal.

“That’s something I set for myself, try to score a goal one day,” Fleury said. “I had a great opportunity to shoot, we were up by two goals. I tried but missed by a little bit.”

Fleury’s miss resulted in an icing call and a faceoff in the Penguins zone. So Fleury said he’ll only attempt to score if Pittsburgh has a two-goal cushion so he may not get too many opportunities to net his first career goal.

“We don’t get those too often in a season,” Fleury said. “But if (we do) again, I’ll try for sure.”

> One of the major areas of improvement from last year has been Pittsburgh’s penalty killing. Last season, the Penguins ranked 23rd in the league with a kill-rate of 81 percent. So far this season, the team has killed 86.1 percent of opponent’s power plays, ranking eighth in the NHL.

“It’s about being there as a unit of four,” Therrien said. “They have to make sure they’re on the same page. They have to keep plays to the outside, make sure you have an active stick and make sure you’re in those passing lanes.

"Guys understand more about the system as well. They feel comfortable about the way we kill penalties”

Therrien also credits the Penguins goaltenders Fleury and Dany Sabourin for the vast improvement in the penalty killing arena.

“The No. 1 penalty killer is your goaltender,” Therrien said. “There are breakdowns at times, but they made key saves. Both Sabourin and Fleury have been phenomenal so far and it’s helped the penalty killing.”

> He said it: Therrien on how the Rangers are different without Jaromir Jagr:

“I’ll let you know (Saturday) night.”
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