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Wild Times: Misery Mutual for Penguins, Minnesota; Fleury Out

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury, NHL trade

CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins entered this season with great expectations and lofty objectives.

Nearly 20 percent of the way through it, however, they have struggled to break even in the standings and are sitting outside the playoff field.

That’s pretty humbling for a team that views itself as a Stanley Cup contender.

“We’re certainly not satisfied with where we’re at,” Mike Sullivan said after practice Wednesday. “I’m probably stating the obvious there.”

Uh, yeah.

And it’s not much consolation to the Penguins, who are 6-7-3 and have won just two of their past 11 games, that they are not alone in their disappointment.

In fact, the Penguins will face another under-performing club when they visit Minnesota Thursday at 8:08 p.m.

Optimism that the Wild could challenge for a championship was rampant in the Twin Cities in late summer, but the Wild started with three consecutive losses — all at home, all in regulation — and never have won more than two games in a row en route to a 7-7-2 record.

Although Minnesota has a nominal lead on the Penguins, 16-15, in the overall standings, the teams probably are dead-even, in terms of being a disappointment.

In any case, the Penguins aren’t likely to devote much time or attention to the Wild’s problems — like how Minnesota has scored just 23 5-on-5 goals, tied for third-fewest in the NHL — unless it’s to figure out how they can be exploited.

“We just have to focus on our game, regardless of our opponent and what their situation is,” Sidney Crosby said. “We have to find a way to get wins. … If anything, you know you’re going to get a team that’s going to be urgent and desperate. But we should be, too.”

Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will not play against his old team after apparently getting hurt during a 2-1 loss in Nashville Tuesday. He was placed on injured-reserve, which means he will be out of the lineup for at least a week.

He sat out Minnesota’s practice Wednesday because of an unspecified upper-body injury.

Fleury is 4-3 against the Penguins, with a 3.06 goals-against average and .905 save percentage, and after rebounding from a subpar start, would have been capable of frustrating the Penguins. Even so, the guys who’ve shared a locker room with him seemed happy to have a chance to cross paths with Fleury again.

“It’s still awesome to see him, and see him doing well,” Bryan Rust said.

Regardless of who is in goal for Minnesota, the Pittsburgh Penguins have to find a way to put enough pucks past him to leave town with a couple of points. At the moment, they would need to hurdle four clubs just to get into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It hasn’t been the start that we wanted, but I think that at this point last year, we were 6-6-4,” Rust said. “We ended up having a good year. There’s still a lot of it left.

“Obviously, there are a lot of things to iron out here, but we know what can be done. We know we can go on to have a good year. But we have to figure things out, and we have to figure them out quick.”

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Sallie
Sallie
11 days ago

This team might have skills and talent, but I just don’t see anything that says they are a Stanley Cup contender. I would suggest a Sports Psychologist be hired to work with them. They need help.

kingpuck
kingpuck
11 days ago
Reply to  Sallie

Sallie for a veteran team like this, if they need a Sports Psych……..this team is in huge trouble. The need more youth, more size, and more will, and you get that through call ups, trades or a coaching change, not switching wingers on the top 2 lines.

Chase Cranson
Chase Cranson
11 days ago
Reply to  kingpuck

Its amazing that coaches can’t see what’s happening there is talent here but old habits are hard to break I still believe that a goalie need to steal a game that’s not happening plus the defense is to blame they are weak and slow

Wasnt
11 days ago
Reply to  Chase Cranson

Simple and to the point….couldn’t agree more.

Rob
Rob
9 days ago
Reply to  Sallie

Unless they make changes but they had the chance to make big changes in the off-season.

Sam
Sam
11 days ago

Many here have offered valid reasons for the Pens’ lackluster play….old, slowing team lacking size and physicality. I agree. But let’s peel the onion. How did we get here? I’ll offer a thought. The problem is Sullivan. No coach in the NHL has been given as much rope in terms of personnel as Sully over the past 8 years. He insists on playing the same system today as he did 8 years ago, with the same players or type of players. His bottom 6 are clones of one another, with little distinguishing atributes among them. Enforcer? Nope, the likes of… Read more »

Wasnt
10 days ago
Reply to  Sam

Sam your dead on and I couldn’t agree more. It’s so freaking frustrating……AUG!!!!!

The Binker
The Binker
10 days ago
Reply to  Sam

You’re wrong. There’s no way that Crosby, Malkin, Letang. Guentzel and Rust would play in a methodical, d-first system. As the most accomplished players with long-term deals, they dictate the terms.

Last edited 10 days ago by The Binker
Uros
Uros
10 days ago

Third fewest 5 on 5 goals? Let’s see if we can help them go up a bit. And I’m very disappointed by Rust’s words. 6-6-4 last year? They were without Crosby and Malkin, but it’s not just that. A plethora of injuries came along. It was so bad, I couldn’t even recognize the players that were playing for us. 6-6-4 was an incredible success for that team, while 6-7-2 is a disgrace for this one. Who was injured other than Blueger? Yeah, someone missed a game or two, so what? I don’t like dishonest justifications. Just say it as it… Read more »

The Binker
The Binker
10 days ago

Where are you HexBurke? The silence is deafening . . .

The Binker
The Binker
10 days ago

I see a lethargic bunch here. That’s what happens when there are no talented young guys to push the core veterans, who are comfy with their long-term deals and are set in their ways.

Last edited 10 days ago by The Binker
Alan Smith
10 days ago

Still way to soon to write so much doom!

Rob
Rob
9 days ago

Let’s start by Bringing back the organist like the good old days and get rid of that annoying weak Let’s Go Pens horn blower!