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Penguins Report: We're Talking About Practice

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Practice makes perfect. Unfortunately for the Penguins, they haven’t been able to work out their kinks because they only practiced twice in the last two weeks.

“We need to practice because of the team that we have,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “We’re still young. A young team needs to practice. We’re always at our best when we have quality practices. We’re sharp. We know what we’re going to do and that’s the way we’ve been successful.”

“Practice in the NHL is overlooked a lot,” Sidney Crosby said. “It’s something that allows your team to regroup a little bit some times. You focus on those little details that you apply without thinking once the game comes.”

Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to practice because it is in the midst of a game-heavy portion of its schedule.

Pittsburgh plays seven games in 11 days at the start of December. So many consecutive games are taxing on a player’s conditioning and the coaches have scrapped practice to keep from overworking the team.

“What bothers me about this is that we don’t practice,” Therrien said. “We don’t have any practice, we just play. We wanted to practice but we wanted to keep their energy.”

This week the Penguins have four games in six days. They played Buffalo on Monday and held their first practice in a week on Tuesday – in front of 9,000 students. They play on Wednesday in New Jersey and Thursday against the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh. The team could practice on Friday; however Therrien may opt to rest his players (as he did the week prior) because they have an afternoon game in Philadelphia on Saturday.

This week is going to be another challenging week with all the traveling. That’s going to be a challenge for the players. - Michel Therrien
“Those games are demanding,” Therrien said. “That’s the challenge. That’s why you need to save energy. This week is going to be another challenging week with all the traveling. That’s going to be a challenge for the players.”

Without practice, the Penguins can only hope to improve on their shortcomings in the games – not an ideal situation for any team.

Following Saturday’s game, the Penguins will have four days off before their next game – plenty of time to get in some quality practices. In the meantime, the team will have to fight through it.

“Sometimes things don’t come easy and some things happen quicker than others,” Crosby said. “As long as your mindset is where it needs to be eventually you turn things around and improve. It doesn’t come easy but with the right work ethic, the right attitude and right focus, we’ll be able to fix it.”

“We addressed it with the players on the ice,” Therrien said. “We worked at it. It’s a tough thing right now with our team playing so many games. You have to work at it. It’s doesn’t come naturally for a lot of players. Hopefully, the practice (Tuesday) will help our players focus for (the Devils’ game).”

> Penguins goaltender Dany Sabourin will make his career-high sixth consecutive start in goal for Pittsburgh when they take on the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The line combinations at the morning skate were: Pascal Dupuis-Sidney Crosby-Miroslav Satan; Ruslan Fedotenko-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora; Chris Minard-Jordan Staal-Matt Cooke; Jeff Taffe-Maxime Talbot-Eric Godard/ Tim Wallace. It will be a game-time decision on whether Wallace or Godard is in the lineup.

The Penguins shuffled their defensive pairings, combining Boston College alums Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi. Mark Eaton will now be paired with Kris Letang, while Alex Goligoski will remain with Ben Lovejoy.

> The New Jersey Devils are employing a new defensive strategy when it comes to handling


opposing team’s superstars. Normally, the team would have defensive forward John Madden shadow the opponent’s best player. However, the team is opting instead to stick to its rotation. So Crosby won’t be seeing Madden at his side the entire game.

“That’s not going to change the way I play, whether someone shadows me or not,” Crosby said. “You have to go to the same places. That’s really the whole purpose of shadowing other players, trying to get him out of his comfort zone, try to get him to switch things up.”

Madden did not play in the team’s previous meeting Nov. 29 at Mellon Arena. In that game, Crosby recorded his second career hat trick and added an assist for a four-point game.

“They always depend on their five guys out there anyway, whether I was specifically playing against Madden. They’re a five-man unit out there anyway. They always pride themselves on team defense whether he was there or wasn’t there. That’s just the way they play.

“I think it’s much tougher to play a unit of five than one guy shadowing you. That’s my opinion. If you see a lot of teams, that’s what they depend on for good defense.”


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