The Penguins’ power play started the season molten hot, scoring five goals in their first 10 chances. However, the team hasn’t converted in its last 12 opportunities, and so the coaching staff made some adjustments for Wednesday’s practice.
Evgeni Malkin moved to the right point, although during practice he floated down to the half wall as well. James Neal, who worked the point for the first six games of the season, is back to his old position down low. Defenseman Kris Letang moves to the left point with Sidney Crosby on the half wall and Chris Kunitz at the net.
|James Neal and Evgeni Malkin (Getty Images) |
Neal is a highly effective player down low. That’s the spot he occupied all of last season when he led the entire NHL with 18 power-play goals.
“I had success on the power play in that spot last year,” Neal said. “It’s a spot I’m familiar with and I feel comfortable. I’m more comfortable there than on the point.”
“Neal playing low is better because he likes playing lower,” Malkin said. “Last season he scored the most (power play) goals in the NHL. He’s comfortable lower.”
Malkin has played the point on the power play in the past. It’s a position that will allow him to set up his teammates as well as unleashing his own booming shot.
“When (Malkin’s) passing the puck to Kris, you’re going to see him backing off for that one-time position where he got that shot off last year quite a bit,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
“I’m playing the point right now. I’ve played the point before,” Malkin said. “I’m a good playmaker. I can pass to ‘Sid’ or ‘Tanger’ for a one-timer. I hope it works.”
According to Bylsma, the new power-play look will give the Penguins a better to chance to set up in the offensive zone.
“It’s more that we haven’t really had a set to our power play as of yet,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of zone time, we haven’t been in situations where we’ve been able to establish that position in the offensive zone. This particular set gives us a better chance to get set up and have our power play from the top better than it’s been to this point.”
The players welcomed the changes and are hoping to find some chemistry with each other in the new setup to jumpstart the power play.
“Last four games we haven’t played well. We needed a change,” Malkin said. “We changed it this morning. We’ll see (Thursday). Maybe it will work better.”
The coaches can adjust and teach, but at the end of the day it’s up to the players to make things happen on the ice.
“The bottom line is we need to make plays and execute those plays,” Neal said. “We have to outwork their penalty kill and good things will happen.”
Note: Dustin Jeffrey skated with Malkin and Neal during line rushes at Wednesday's practice. The third line consisted of Matt Cooke-Brandon Sutter-Tanner Glass, while the fourth line had Craig Adams-Joe Vitale-Tyler Kennedy.