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Pens excited to get back on home ice

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The Pens players couldn't help but smile while talking about the crowd support from their fans at PPG Paints Arena following their Wednesday practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

"The first two games they were a big part of our success," Conor Sheary said. "They were behind us the whole way. We didn't have the start we wanted in either game, but they stuck with us and we rallied together and were able to come out with two wins."

Heading to Columbus with a 2-0 series lead in their First Round matchup with the Blue Jackets, the Pens were able to recover from a slow start to win Game 3. But they couldn't do the same in Game 4 on Tuesday in front of a riotous crowd at Nationwide Arena.

"We knew that was an emphasis they were going to have," Brian Dumoulin said. "Obviously that's something we've got to try and get better at and can't continue to let happen, especially in their building. They have a lot of energy, a lot of emotion. It's a tough place to play at. So is PPG. It should be a fun and exciting atmosphere come Thursday."

The Pens obviously didn't want to have a Game 5 and would have loved to close out the series with a sweep. But since it's happening and the puck will be dropping at 7 p.m. on Thursday, they're excited to have it back on home ice.

"You feel that energy, you go out there and see the towels waving, it's a cool atmosphere," Dumoulin said. "It's fun to play in."

The Pens began to define the term 'home-ice advantage' starting last season, as they've gone 59-14-6 at PPG Paints Arena (in the regular season and playoffs combined) since Dec. 21, 2015.

This year, they had a 31-6-4 home record, the third time in franchise history the Pens recorded 30 home wins. Their 66 points ranked second in club history.

"I think you always feed off of the energy from your crowd and you get a little boost being at home that way," Sidney Crosby said. "You build confidence when you win games so I think that probably is a combination of different things. But there's a certain level of confidence that you want to have at home and we've been able to play with that."

During Games 3 and 4 at Nationwide Arena, Marc-Andre Fleury had to deal with the crowd chanting his name in a derisive way. Tomorrow in Game 5, he'll hear the fans saying it in support - and he can't wait to get back.

"It's huge," Fleury said. "The fourth win is always the toughest to get, and to be back home and having a chance to do it is big. We've had a lot of success at home and with the support of the fans right there with us, it's always fun."

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