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Penguins Work On Power Play For First Time In Camp

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Midway through Wednesday’s morning skate the Penguins spent time working on the power play for the first time in camp.

Because of the high-end talent the Penguins possess, who works on the top power-play unit and where those players are employed is always a hot-button topic.

“I wouldn’t read into the execution too much on the ice, unless we play really well,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Today was a shortened camp with a game starting so close to camp. Today was the first session on the power play and we looked at video on the power play. So there’s not a lot of time. The feel for how it’s going to look and for what we’re trying to achieve will come over the next two, three weeks.”

“I think the main thing is that you work on executing in practice,” Sidney Crosby said. “You can’t just turn it on in a game. With the guys we have, we have to find a way to be better on our power play.”

The five players who worked with the top group in practice included no-brainers Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, along with Mike Comrie, Kris Letang and Eric Tangradi.

Keep in mind, however, that potential power-play candidates such as forward Chris Kunitz and defensemen Alex Goligoski and Paul Martin practiced with the two groups not playing on Wednesday, and they could all factor into this equation when they are present.

In the most notable change, Malkin lined up at the left point with Letang to his right. However, once the puck was dropped, the Penguins used more of an umbrella formation with Letang at the center point and Malkin and Crosby sliding up and down the left and right walls, respectively.

Bylsma cautioned not to read too much into Malkin being at the left point, pointing out that Malkin’s and Crosby’s jobs are very similar, just on opposite sides of the ice.

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“We will try some different looks on the power play throughout training camp because everyone will be playing in different spots,” Bylsma said. “Regardless of whether there are two defensemen there or not, we won’t be labeling them as defensemen. One guy will be the defenseman, that was Kris Letang, and the other guys will be playing the wall position. It could be a defenseman, or it could be 71 or 87. We hope the way the power play looks that you’ll see them all in different spots as the power play executes, moves and attacks.”

Tangradi parked himself at the top of the blue crease to provide a screen and convert rebound chances while Comrie occupied the high-slot area between the circles.

Having Comrie positioned in the middle of the ice served two purposes.

First, having him stationed in the middle of the opposition’s defensive box opens up more passing lanes because he can float in and out of the slot, either opening himself up for shots or serving as a passing option that allows the Penguins to move the puck quickly by constantly outnumbering the penalty kill.

Placing him in the middle of the ice also puts him in the perfect position to move to the low slot, where he can help create a double-screen along with Tangradi when Malkin, Letang and Crosby are shooting from the point.

“Having a guy in the middle gives us a lot of different looks,” Comrie said. “It creates a lot of movement and keeps us from getting stagnant. I think with the players that we have, guys are interchangeable. We can all make plays, but what we have to do is get pucks to the net.

“I think if you can try to two-on-one the defenders no matter where you are on the ice, it’s going to help you execute. You can also get yourself open in the slot. It’s an ideal situation with Geno and Sid (on the side) being able to draw players to them. That allows you to slide off, get open and take that shot.”

Watching the power play execute in practice, it appears this formation allows for more movement than we’ve seen from the Penguins in recent years, which should only mean good things for what figures to be a talented group.

“You can draw things up all you want, but at the end of the day you have to execute out there,” Crosby said. “We will make sure we are working hard at it and try to make sure that it is clicking coming into the season.”
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