Alex Galchenyuk’s next game, Friday at New Jersey, will be his 500th in the NHL. You could probably forgive the Pittsburgh Penguins winger if he feels as if it has been, oh, 400 or so games since he last scored.
In his first season with the Penguins – one that has been interrupted by an injury in training camp and eventually forced him out of the lineup for a big chunk of the regular season – Galchenyuk has no goals, three assists in nine games. For someone who has 127 career goals, that’s a little hard to take.
“I know I have to be better, so I come to work every day and (work on everything),” Galchenyuk said Thursday after the Penguins practiced in Newark, N.J.
Chances have been there. Goals have not.
“I know I’m not where I want to be, and I know I’ve got to be better,” he said. “That’s my mindset – going out there and batting and competing and getting my game where it needs to be, just improve every day and sticking to it.
“Adversity is a part of the season, and I’ve just got to find a way to get out of it. Obviously, when I get the puck across the goal line, the game will be a little bit easier. But at the same time, you can’t just focus on that. I have to focus on every aspect of the game and improve it all. That’s where my head is.”
Coach Mike Sullivan would approve of the latter part of Galchenyuk’s assessment.
“As I suggested to Alex and all players that are in his position, for me it’s just about not overthinking things and just trusting your instincts and keeping your game simple and being more focused on the process of just playing the game right way than trying to score goals or focus on the outcome or the results,” Sullivan said.
“I think you can get overwhelmed by circumstance if you don’t keep your mind in the right place. That’s just the details of the game shift to shift. I think if he just takes the focus off of scoring goals and he just tries to make that next play and compete on pucks and being good on the wall … then scoring opportunities will present themselves.”
Sullivan sounded supportive, acknowledging that missing time because of an injury can make things difficult, and giving the winger something of a vote of confidence.
“We believe Alex is a good player, and so we’re going to try to put him in positions where he can play to his strengths,” Sullivan said.
However, even before Sidney Crosby’s recent injury brought a shakeup to the line combinations, Galchenyuk was moved away from center Evgeni Malkin.
Pittsburgh Penguins Acquisition
It was hoped when the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Galchenyuk during the offseason from Arizona in the Phil Kessel trade that Malkin and Galchenyuk might jell – perhaps, if the team got really lucky, the way that Crosby and Jake Gentzel have.
That hasn’t happened.
For now, Galchenyuk, 25, can maybe take some comfort in knowing he will become the first player from the class of 2012 – taken third overall by Montreal in a draft held in Pittsburgh – to reach 500 games.
“It means a lot,” Galchenyuk said. “Everybody talks about a thousand games, and it’s halfway, so to do that at a pretty young age, I would definitely (say I’m) fortunate or blessed to be in this position.”