LAS VEGAS — The Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice had a fun start that included a few competitive words uttered in good nature. However, 15 minutes into practice, coach Mike Sullivan stopped the drills to admonish his team for “going through the motions.”
Sullivan demanded everything be faster. Passes harder.
“I just thought we were lethargic, so sometimes, as coaches, we’re trying to just affect a little bit of positive change right away,” Sullivan said.
He continued barking to pick up the pace through the remainder of the two-on-one drills. Players quickly got the message as Sullivan commanded practice from that moment.
The Penguins have lost five in a row, and six of seven games, including squandering third-period leads in two of the last three games. After the speed drills, the Penguins worked on corner offense and getting to the net.
Casey DeSmith took one net, Dustin Tokarski the other.
UPDATE: Sullivan downplayed Pettersson’s absence as a maintenance day.
The lines were often jumbled in the drills, as the defense pairings. However, the top two lines remained together.
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker-Evgeni Malkin-Rickard Rakell
As for the bottom six, Jeff Carter took some shifts as a third-line center, as did Teddy Blueger. Kasperi Kapanen rotated onto the line, too.
Ryan Poehling was again at practice. His status remains unknown. The Penguins told media outlets after the Winter Classic he was not a healthy scratch but injured.
UPDATE: Sullivan could not confirm if he will have enough forwards to ice a fourth-line Thursday.
“I don’t yet have an answer,” Sullivan said.
Ty Smith. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin. Jake Guenztel. Rickard Rakell.
The power play is 0-for-12 since Letang left the lineup, including an 0-for-9 performance against New Jersey last week.
Defenseman Kris Letang, whose father passed last weekend, remained absent. Letang is with family in Montreal and nursing a lower-body injury that termed him day-to-day. He did not play in the Winter Classic.
The Penguins don’t have a timetable for his return. Sullivan expressed the obvious that the team is being respectful of the family and Letang’s space during this unfortunate time.
Maybe some home cooking will be served for the Penguins’ offense. Sidney Crosby’s parents made the trip from the Winter Classic to Las Vegas. The observed practice, too.