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Pens know patience is key against Ottawa's 1-3-1

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The Pens are known for speed, while the Sens are known for negating it.

A big storyline in the Eastern Conference Final will be how the Pens deal with the 1-3-1 neutral-zone strategy that Sens head coach Guy Boucher has implemented in his first season behind the bench for Ottawa.

For the Pens, the biggest keys will be staying patient and sticking to their game plan.

"It's a unique system," forward Matt Cullen admitted. "It's a challenge. It can test your patience at times. It's going to be important we stick with it. It's not always going to be pretty."

The positive, said Cullen, is that they can create offense other ways, adding that they don't need to focus too much on the fact it's going to be tough to generate a lot between the blue lines.

"We have to make sure we get our speed and get the puck behind them and work from there," winger Patric Hornqvist said. "We can't make any hope plays in the neutral zone. That's exactly what they want. They have skilled and fast forwards. They can knock down pucks and go the other way. We have to be careful on those plays."

That's what stands out to Sidney Crosby about Ottawa's structure through the neutral zone. Usually when people think of the 1-3-1, they think trap - which tends to translate to boring defensive hockey. That's not necessarily the case for Ottawa.

"They try to slow teams down there, but they are not a slow team by any means," he said. "They like to play pretty fast and transition. I think both teams are the same in that they want to play quick, but through the neutral zone they are pretty stingy. You have to make good decisions going through there."

The Pens worked on doing just that in practice on Friday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, where head coach Mike Sullivan had a few of the Black Aces come out and set up in that 1-3-1 format so his guys could get a feel for what they were up against.

"We wanted to give our players an opportunity to see it, practice it," he said. "We have some strategies we'd like to utilize to try and have success and establish the type of game that we'd like to play, so today was an opportunity to practice against it and so we utilized a scout team to do so.

"Certainly I think that's an aspect of Ottawa's game where they're very solid, and we're going to have to make sure that we make good decisions and manage the puck appropriately between the blue lines."

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