Pittsburgh is fighting for its life right now. The Penguins were valiant in their efforts while the injury list built up and the schedule became overbearing. However, all those factors have finally caught up with the team as it has lost four of its last five games and dropped five of its last seven.
“Every team faces this,” Brooks Orpik
said. “It’s not something you can use as an excuse. It is what it is. You have to make the best out of it. We have to find a way to get on a roll here somehow after the last stretch that we had.”
Head coach Michel Therrien addressed the issue with his team before Tuesday’s afternoon practice at Southpointe, and then he put the boys to work.
“We used the day to show a video before practice about competing,” Therrien said. “We tried to bring that to the practice. We competed a lot. I believe that’s important. I didn’t like way we competed last game (at Philadelphia). We have to make sure we’re back on track.”
The Penguins competed in one-on-one and two-on-two puck battles along the boards and in the corners. Pittsburgh also worked on fighting for free pucks around the net and creating traffic in front of the goaltender.
The guys that wear the (Penguins) jersey are going to have to play with a lot of pride. - Michel Therrien
“The guys that wear the (Penguins) jersey are going to have to play with a lot of pride,” Therrien said. “The message to get across today was that we have to compete. I don’t care if we played seven games in 11 days. That’s an excuse. We have to compete and I didn’t like the way we competed.”
So how did the team compete at practice?
“They handled it pretty good,” Therrien said. “Honestly, they have no choice.”
“We knew we had to come and work hard, get back on track and start some practice,” Sidney Crosby
said. “It was really good actually. Guys are all accountable for the way things went last game and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Therrien also had the players skate suicides. They started by going all the way to the end boards and back a few times. Then they went to the far blue line and back a few more times, then the red line and finally the near blue line. Several players were hunched over in exhaustion following the exercise.
“We know with this group, when we do have practices like we had today it usually has a pretty positive carry over to the way we play in games,” Orpik said. “I think guys just have to take more responsibility with the way they carry themselves and being more prepared for games. I think we’re approaching games like it’s just another game instead of getting excited for it and being as prepared as we should be.”
The Penguins are not strangers to adversity. The last few seasons, Pittsburgh has overcome many obstacles – especially injuries and slow starts. The Penguins have overcome these obstacles in the past but Therrien isn’t relying on history as a predictor of the future.
“That’s not a given,” Therrien said. “It’s not that we did it in the past so it’s going to be automatic. It doesn’t work like that. We’re facing adversity and the schedule was tough. We have a few days to regroup. It’s a lot of commitment. It’s a lot of hard work. You have to prove yourself every game.”
The Penguins only had nine forwards at practice. Pittsburgh has 13 forwards currently on the roster but Tyler Kennedy
(IR: knee), Max Talbot (undisclosed), Mike Zigomanis (undisclosed) and Ruslan Fedotenko (illness) did not participate in practice.
Therrien said that Fedotenko will likely be in the lineup Thursday against the Atlanta Thrashers.
“Fedotenko should be there, he’s just sick,” Therrien said.
As for Zigomanis and Talbot being able to play, Therrien was less optimistic.
“It doesn’t look like guys will be back soon, for the next game anyway,” Therrien said. “I hope so but I’d be surprised. We have to find solutions within.”
The Penguins need to find a solution soon because road ahead will be difficult. Pittsburgh will play four games in six days starting on Thursday against a few opponents ahead of them in the standings.
It’s not going to get any easier schedule-wise. It’s not going to get any easier as far as opponents - Sidney Crosby
“It’s not going to get any easier schedule-wise; it’s not going to get any easier as far as opponents,” Crosby said. “As the season goes on, the more competitive it’s going to get. Mentally, each game you have to erase the one before no matter what happens. We had a 9-2 game and didn’t erase it quick enough and we weren’t ready for the game coming up. We’ll learn from that but we’ve learned a lot of lessons over the last couple years for sure.”
The players survived the practice but the effectiveness will be measured in the Penguins’ upcoming games.
“The exercise is not about today,” Therrien said. “It’s about the next game. Then after the next game, it’s going to be Saturday (against Toronto). That’s the exercise. They did a good job today. That’s alright. We brought it to their attention with the meetings before and we brought it to their attention with the meetings on the ice. I want to see results. I want to see a team that’s going to compete in battles.”Archives