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Penguins Work To Get Back on Track

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are hoping to reverse course on two negative trends when they meet the Florida Panthers at Mellon Arena for a Saturday afternoon showdown at 1 p.m. First, they’d like to get their power play back on track. Second, they want to re-establish themselves as a dominant team at Mellon Arena.

“It’s easy to come up with all these ideas,” Sidney Crosby said about reasons for the team’s recent struggles. “The fact of the matter is that we haven’t gotten consistency from all of us through every game. Whatever it takes we haven’t had enough of that. It’s just a matter of our consistency and everyone coming together and finding a way. It’s not easy right now but winning solves a lot so we have to find a way.”

Pittsburgh can get a huge boost by scoring some goals with the man-advantage. The Penguins haven’t scored a power-play goal in the past five games, going 0 for 21 in that stretch. The last time the Penguins suffered through such a drought was when they failed to record a man-advantage goal in eight straight games from Dec. 16, 2008, to Dec. 31.

“(The power play) doesn’t necessarily have to be a change or anything,” said Ryan Whitney, who sees extensive power-play action. “We just have to start scoring. You have to shoot the puck and crash the net. Boston has a good power play. That’s what they do. They get guys in front and shoot from everywhere. It doesn’t really matter what the setup is. You just have to get pucks on net.”

“We’ve gotten some good chances,” Crosby said. “When your power play is going well it doesn’t mean that every time you’re out there you’re dominating the zone for two minutes. When it’s struggling its easy to point out and try to change. Everyone has their opinion about change. The fact is if some of those pucks go in, if some of the chances we get we execute on them, then we’re not talking about it. It comes down to execution. It’s not how we setup or anything like that. It comes down to battling in front, putting in rebounds or finishing off plays.”

A strong power play will go a long way to rekindling the type of dominance the Penguins have had at home in recent year. In each of the past two seasons, the Penguins finished with an identical 26-10-5 mark at home. Currently, Pittsburgh has lost four consecutive games at home and are at 8-7-2 at Mellon Arena this season (8-8-2 counting the team’s designated home game in Sweden against Ottawa)

It’s not a matter of effort. I have confidence in that group. We discuss attitude a lot and right now they’ve got the right attitude. - Michel Therrien
“We’ve been playing pretty solid on the road but at home you need wins,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “It’s not a matter of effort. I have confidence in that group. We discuss attitude a lot and right now they’ve got the right attitude. They’re working hard. You just have to make sure we bring that to the game and keep focusing. Now is not the time to point fingers. Now is the time to really buy into the team concept. That’s going to make us better.”

“We’ve always been a real good home team these past few years,” Whitney said. “We’ve lost four in a row. I can’t remember the last time that happened. That’s got to change. We have to make this place a tough place for opponent’s to come into again. The fans are still coming. They’re loud. It’s up to us to play well and get some wins here.”

Pittsburgh will have its first opportunity to right the ship against the Panthers, who are five points behind the Penguins and fighting for a playoff spot. However, the Penguins insist that the results will be less about Florida and have more to do with Pittsburgh.

“We’re at a point where we’re not really concerned with whom we’re playing," Brooks Orpik said. "We’re more worried about the effort we put forth and the preparation put in from our side of things. The attitude is more making sure we have the right mindset and focus going into the games.”

Added Crosby:

“I don’t think we’re looking at other teams right now. We have to worry about our own team and make sure we’re getting the most out of each other. Whoever it is in the standings, that’s not something we’re worried about. We have the confidence that if we bring our best then we give ourselves a great opportunity.”

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