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Penguins Practice: Special Teams Work, Shootouts and Shots

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Pittsburgh Penguins Special Teams, Mike Vellucci

CRANBERRY — Special teams. Shootouts. And a few unique line combinations that quickly gave way to the usual configurations. The Pittsburgh Penguins practiced for about 35 minutes Sunday at the UPMC Lemieux Complex with the specter of a seven-game winless streak hanging over them like Grandma’s picture of the Last Supper.

Ryan Poehling was absent. Coach Mike Sullivan said Poehling is the latest Penguins player to be sick. Recently, Kris Letang admitted to being sick for more than 10 days. Jake Guentzel missed a couple of days, too.

Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger, returning from injuries, were full participants.

Blueger is eligible to be activated from LTIR as soon as he’s ready, and he took a prominent role on the penalty kill as assistant coach Mike Vellucci pointed instructions.

The Penguins PP1 scored a quick goal before decisively losing the next few possessions:

The Penguins’ penalty kill is near the bottom of the league. Before a pair of kills on Saturday, the unit ranked 29th at just over 71%. While they officially nullified a pair of power plays, the unit also yielded the go-ahead goal in the third period moments after Sidney Crosby exited the penalty box.

The Seattle Kraken raced the length of the ice, uncontested, and zipped around the Penguins’ PK setup. As we described in the PHN+ Penguins report card, multiple players failed in their duties.

Penguins Power Play:

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ second power play unit featured a new-ish configuration. Danton Heinen was at the back at the point of the second unit. PHN will have more analysis of the power play, but Heinen sang a song that should be music to Penguins fans’ ears.

Shoot the puck more?

“Yeah, exactly. Yeah,” Heinen said with a smirk.

Sullivan also echoed that sentiment regarding the practice.

“I feel like we got better in some things. It gave us an opportunity to get some repetitions in trying to train our guys a little bit more, just in the mindset of shooting the puck on the power play,” Sullivan said.

Surprisingly, the PPG Paints Arena crowd has been more patient with the power play as “Shooooott!” has not yet rained down from the rafters.

Third and Fourth Penguins Lines:

The Penguins’ lines should look slightly different in the coming week as Carter and Blueger return. The Penguins have a few days to get healthy because they don’t face the Washington Capitals until Wednesday.

“Regardless of who’s in our lineup, we’re trying to play a game that sets the team up for success. And part of that identity is being hard to play against. You can define that in a lot of different ways,” Sullivan said. “It’s everything from managing the puck the right way, not giving teams easy looks on the transition, details like line changes and face-offs … I think they can bring dimensions like helping us sustain and gain momentum, put pucks down below the goal line, forcing opponents’ defenseman to have to make plays under pressure, bringing an element of physicality to our game, and helping us on the penalty kill.”

The Penguins’ bottom six has been conspicuously absent on many of those matters, including the PK and generating pressure. It’s one reason this writer opined that GM Ron Hextall has work to do.

On Saturday night, the third line centered by Ryan Poehling had a positive scoring chance ratio, but according to NaturalStatTrick.com, only had three scoring chances and one high-danger shot.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Alan Smith
27 days ago

The Pens are always in every game and will get the breaks down the road! Have all kinds of chances to win lately. They beat Boston bad for a while. Beat Tampa and are hardly out of any game play! Might take some time but they are exciting to watch play!