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Pens Take on Difficult Challenge

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins find themselves in the most unenviable position of being down 3-0 in their opening round Stanley Cup playoff series to the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Penguins will face elimination every time they step on the ice against the Flyers, including in Game 4 Wednesday night in Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. There is absolutely no room for error for Pittsburgh as it’ll have to win four straight games against Philadelphia to keep its Stanley Cup hopes alive.

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While history says such an outcome is not usual, it is not unprecedented. Three teams in the history of the NHL have overcome 3-0 deficits to win a playoff series, including the Flyers two seasons ago en route to a Cup Final appearance (Toronto over Detroit, Stanley Cup Final, 1942; NY Islanders over Pittsburgh, conference quarterfinals, 1975; Philadelphia over Boston, conference semifinals, 2010).

But in order to win four, the Penguins have to start by winning one. And that one must be Game 4 in Philadelphia.

One crucial key for the Penguins to turn this series around starts and ends between the pipes. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been the team’s backbone over the past two seasons, and has been arguably their best player. And only a few seasons ago he led the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances, and a championship in 2009.

But Fleury has allowed 17 goals over the first eight periods of the series, though he isn’t entirely to blame for the goals allowed. Regardless, head coach Dan Bylsma said that Fleury’s play will be “imperative” if Pittsburgh gets back in the series

“I think it’s imperative that if we are going to scratch back in the series and get back in this thing and start with a win in Philly on Wednesday, it’s going to be on the strength of Marc-Andre Fleury in our net,” Bylsma said. “I also know that the situation he is in, there are 18 guys in front of him that really, as a group, haven’t been there – to a man – for him and in some difficult situations. That’s not just Marc-Andre Fleury.

“How we regroup and how we come back and play is not just Marc-Andre Fleury, but we certainly need the strength of him going forward in the next four games here.”

To make matters worse, they may play Game 4 without three regular players in the lineup, including a 40-goal scorer.

Craig Adams, one of the team’s top penalty killers and defensive forwards, will miss the Game 4 while serving a one-game suspension for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of the third period in Game 3.

Forwards James Neal and Arron Asham will also have hearings with the NHL Tuesday. Their status for Game 4 isn’t known yet.

Depending on those outcomes, Bylsma will have to adjust his lineup. Forwards Eric Tangradi, Joe Vitale and Dustin Jeffrey may be called upon to step into the lineup.

“Hopefully we’ll know (Tuesday) in preparation for what we’ll do in the game with our players,” he said.

The Penguins had a day off Monday and will get back on the ice for practice Tuesday at CONSOL Energy Center. The scheduled day off is intended to let the players physically recover, as well as mentally prepare to go into Game 4 ready to play.

“Certainly (it’s) a chance to get away from the rink, recovery-wise,” Bylsma said. “The physical aspect of it, having a day off and not being on the ice, was a planned part of it. But (so was) being away from the rink.

“We now are challenged with the task of getting back and being real focused and winning one game. Our mindset and what we bring to the rink is as important as anything else we do. We’ll get back to that (Tuesday). Then we’ll have to be real focused about where we’re going to be at and how we’re going to play a game on Wednesday to get our first win and get back in this series.”

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