The Pittsburgh Penguins were “humbled,” according to coach Mike Sullivan, in their third straight loss, 5-0 against Toronto on Saturday. A step Monday in a home game against New Jersey will be to get the offense going again.
The Penguins haven’t been getting production from their bottom-six forwards, but Sullivan said there are other ways they can contribute.
“They need to bring energy,” he said. “They have to be hard to play against. They have to be sound defensively. They’ve got to help us with momentum. They can bring a physical dimension to the game. They can help us kill penalties. They can play in certain roles like that. Sometimes, depending on how we formulate our lines, we could have a line that plays somewhat of a checking role we can use in defensive zone starts or things of that nature
“So there’s lot of ways players help us win. Sometimes it’s on the scoresheet by chipping in offensively, but there’s lots of other ways that those types of players can help us win. For me, one of the things we talk with them about is just helping us with momentum and with our team speed and being on a team that’s difficult to play against. I think that’s the biggest contribution that those bottom-six guys can bring to our team.”
Defenseman Jack Johnson, addressing the inconsistency in the Penguins’ game — they went 4-0 on a road trip through Canada before this losing streak — said, “If you relax for just a second, it’s going to catch you.”
After a full practice, a rarity on a Sunday, the Penguins on Monday held an optional morning skate, which is more the norm.
Winger Phil Kessel, who sat out practice Sunday because of a maintenance day and did not participate in the morning skate, is available for the game against New Jersey, Sullivan said.
Center Derick Brassard, who has missed the past four games because of an undisclosed injury, still has not been back on the ice. So it could still be a couple games at least before Brassard is ready to return.
The game is the Penguins’ annual Hockey Fights Cancer night.