The Penguins flew to Nashville after practice on Monday afternoon to continue their longest road trip of the season, where they’ll play four games in eight days against the Predators, Sharks, Ducks and Capitals. And the timing of this stretch couldn’t be better, as it’s the perfect chance to regroup and refocus together as a team coming off the Olympic break and a lackluster performance in their 5-1 loss to Chicago in the Stadium Series on Saturday. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity,” defenseman Rob Scuderi
said. “After getting blown out in Chicago, I think we’re looking forward to a challenge. It’s not always easy to play on the road and playing against some real high-end competition. So I think it’s a good test for us and a great way to focus on hockey.”
“We’re playing some good teams and we know that our game has to be better,” captain Sidney Crosby
added. “It’s something we know that over the next however many games are left here, it’s important to make sure we’re playing the right way. This road trip’s a good time to start that.”
Being in the East, the Penguins don’t get a lot of lengthy road trips with the close proximity of all the teams in their conference. Which is both a blessing and a curse, because while they don’t have to deal with the grind of traveling as much as teams in the West do, they also don’t get as many opportunities to bond together as a team away from the distractions of home.
But they’re fortunate their longest one of the season comes right when they need it most, after being separated for three weeks and then playing uninspired hockey upon their return. The Pens are embracing this as a chance to spend quality time together off the ice, which will hopefully translate on the ice.
“It’s big. I think it’s a good week away for us,” center Brandon Sutter said. “I think the timing of it is good. Over the Olympic break, we spent a lot of time apart and I think getting this week together of hanging out not only at the rink, but off the ice too and spending some time together might be good for us.”
“So hopefully we find a way to, as we talked about before, getting back to the way we want to play and get that energy back in our dressing room and that excitement back in our game.”
As expected, the guys talked about how getting on the road might help them simplify their game and return to the to basics and the fundamentals of the system they’re trying to execute.
But what was much more telling was the talking point echoed by a number of players: how they've discussed as a group the need to play with passion. Sutter repeatedly used the words “energy” and “excitement,” while Crosby and Scuderi both used the term “desperation” to describe what they need to focus on in order to get back to being successful.
Those elements were lacking from Pittsburgh's first two games back from the break, primarily on Saturday in Chicago, and they understand that’s not acceptable.
They believe focusing on those intangibles – not necessarily the X’s and O’s – will be key for them heading down the stretch, especially with their 14-point lead in the Metropolitan Division virtually guaranteeing them a playoff berth.
“I think that we haven’t played well enough,” Crosby said. “When you’re playing well and you’re winning, it’s a lot more fun. So when you’re losing games and obviously for us, that desperation, we have to find that somewhere. We’re up in the standings, we’re not fighting for a playoff spot right now. It’s a little different mentality, but we need to find a way to make sure that we have that kind of within the room and that’s something we definitely can improve on.”
“Most of all, you have to have some passion, have some fun with it,” agreed Scuderi. “We’re very fortunate to do what we do, but you have to have a little desperation because it’s a lot more fun to be winning than losing.”PRACTICE NOTES:
The Penguins adjusted their lines during their skate at Southpointe. Chuck Kobasew was slotted in on the fourth line after being scratched Saturday in Chicago, while Deryk Engelland rotated with the D. Here's how they looked...