After their 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday at PPG Paints Arena, the Pens practiced Tuesday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex before flying to Manhattan for the second game of a home-and-home with their Metro Division rival.
Despite the setback, head coach Mike Sullivan and his players felt it was a much closer game than the score indicated.
"We had opportunities, real high-quality opportunities to score," Sullivan said. "It didn't go our way. And so I think for long stretches of the game we liked our game. Having said that, we have a high expectation for this group and we're hoping that we can get better in certain areas so we can control the outcomes better.
"That was the discussion we had with our players this morning. We worked on one aspect of our game out there in practice and then we'll go."
Something Sullivan talked about heading into Monday was the Rangers' transition game, which he noted they had improved. They added foot speed to their lineup over the summer and changed their style to be more like Pittsburgh's. Defending that was part of the discussion this morning.
"It's certainly something that we're aware of and we've got to make sure that we make good decisions with the puck," he said. "We've got to make sure we stay on the right side of people and we work to get above the puck as often as we can so they have to come through numbers. We had a video session this morning, we tried to point out some areas of our game where we can get better and we'll see where it goes. They're certainly a good hockey team."
The Pens used the same forward lines they did on Monday…
They did, however, switch up their D-pairs. Maatta moved up with Letang, Dumoulin skated with Daley and Cole remained with Schultz. Sullivan said he's just looking for more consistent play from that group.
"Sometimes if we think we can make an adjustment to a defense pair, it might just change the dynamic a little bit that may help one or two of the players involved," Sullivan said. "It's not unlike when we juggle the lines a little bit. We're trying to create a spark or see if we can't get somebody on the right track as far as their game's going, momentum, that type of thing. That was something that we explored in practice today."
Letang said at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who they play with.
"We're trying different things, different combinations," he said. "I'm comfortable with Olli, I'm comfortable with everybody out there."
Derrick Pouliot practiced with the team before heading to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for three games on a conditioning assignment.
"He'll return here Sunday and will be re-assessed by our doctors at that point," Sullivan said.
Sullivan added that Patric Hornqvist did not fly out with the team for their trip to New York Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday.
"He is going to stay back and it will be day-to-day and when he's ready to play, he'll join us," Sullivan said.