The Pittsburgh Penguins may make more changes than just the lines on Monday night. Head coach Mike Sullivan rolled a two-defenseman setup on both power play units, Monday at the morning skate in Philadelphia. However, the head coach remained coy about any changes which may be made.
At the skate, Marcus Pettersson joined Kris Letang on the point of the first power play unit, along with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patric Hornqvist. Olli Maatta and Juuso Riikola were the point men for Phil Kessel, Nick Bjugstad and Jake Guentzel.
The shorthanded goal against Saturday night appears to have been the final straw for Sullivan who bristled at discussing the power play after the game.
“If we choose to (make those changes), the reason is obvious. I really can’t add any more to that,” Sullivan dismissed. “(The style of play) is a little bit different, for sure. They have a framework and we certainly still have instinctive players if we choose to go that route.”
It would not be the first time Sullivan used a practice or a skate to send a message, only to revert to original lines or configurations. Pittsburgh Hockey Now suggested one comfortable flip, as well.
However, the shorthanded goals have been a thorn in the Penguins side. Sidney Crosby acknowledged Saturday night the shorthanded marker was the difference in the game. Responsibility for the goal, in addition to Sullivan calling out lack of effort on a 5-on-3 power play from Thursday night falls on Phil Kessel, who Sullivan bumped to the second unit at the skate.
“I think sometimes things don’t go your way. You try to switch them up, try to spark something or get guys going a certain way,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “We’re all aware of what happened on the power play this year with a bunch of shorthanded goals, so putting two guys with a defensive mindset out there, we might not get caught on the wrong side.”
The Penguins have allowed a league-leading 12 short-handed goals against, which has prompted several terse postgame statements from Sullivan as the goals accrued. The phrase he used numerous times, “We don’t have a conscience, defensively,” on the power play.
The Penguins power play clicked at an all-time franchise best 27 percent last season. This season it has been streaky. After scoring on six of seven chances, from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, the unit has scored just six power-play goals and allowed four shorthanded tallies. Overall, the power play is converting at 23.5 percent which is 10th best in the NHL.
The Penguins may also get Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup, which also figures to add a boost to the flagging unit.
“(Malkin) just helps in so many areas. The power play is just one aspect of it,” Sullivan said. “He’s a dynamic offensive player. He’s a threat every time he’s over the boards, whether it’s 5-on-4 or even strength.”