The View From Pittsburgh

Penguins Notebook: Pittsburgh in an Unfamiliar Place

By Dave Molinari
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sunday, May 3, 2009; 9:57 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Penguins found themselves in an unusual position when they reported to the Verizon Center for practice yesterday.

Trailing in a playoff series.

That never happened in four of their previous five series, but Washington grabbed the early advantage in this second-round matchup with a 3-2 victory in the opener Saturday.

Being behind is no fun, of course, and the Penguins seem intent on pulling even with a victory in Game 2 here at 7:08 p.m. today, but the stress level didn't appear to be especially high before, during or after their workout.

"I don't notice anything different," center Jordan Staal said. "None of the guys are pressing or getting nervous or anything like that. It's a long series."

One the Penguins seem confident of surviving, despite an obvious respect for the Capitals' skill level and willingness to work.

"That's the thing about our team," center Max Talbot said. "We know that if we play our game for seven games, usually, we're going to like the result."

Power Play Meeting

Members of the power play had a long meeting before practice, and playing with the extra man got considerable attention during the on-ice session, too.

No surprise there, given that the Penguins were 0-for-5 on the power play in the opener and have gone four games without a man-advantage goal.

"You have to stay positive about it," right winger Bill Guerin said. "There's nothing else you can do."

Yesterday, the No. 1 unit had Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang on the points, with Sidney Crosby, Guerin and Evgeni Malkin up front, while the second group had Gonchar and Mark Eaton on the points, with Chris Kunitz, Staal and Petr Sykora up front.

Confidence Builder

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma praised Sykora's performance in Game 1, when he returned after not dressing for the final two games of the opening round against Philadelphia.

"He moved his feet better, skated better, [had] better execution with the puck and got to the offensive zone more [than he had during the Flyers series]," Bylsma said.

"He played the right way, better in terms of away from the puck. That's how he's got to play in order to put himself in a position to score the goal. I have tons of confidence that he's going to score a goal.

"He's a goal-scorer and a shooter. I have a ton of confidence that he's going to get that chance, and rip it into the net when he does."

Sykora said yesterday that, "I am confident" despite scoring just twice in his past 22 games, but when asked how he has maintained that confidence, said, "I really don't want to talk about it."

Challenging Situation

The Penguins saw very little of Washington's power play in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series, and really didn't mind at all.

They also don't expect that to become a trend.

Although the Penguins were assessed just two minor penalties in the opener -- unfortunately for them, the infractions came 61 seconds apart and led to a five-on-three goal by Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin -- they realize they probably will be shorthanded a little more often as the series moves along.

Limiting the damage the Capitals do when they have the extra man will be critical to the Penguins' chances of surviving the series, but will be more than a little challenging because of Washington's personnel.

"All their guys on the ice can score," Talbot said. "They're a dangerous group. They know what to do. They move the puck really well. They have the best [goal-]scoring defenseman [Mike Green] and the best-scoring forward in the league [Ovechkin] out there."

No Line Changes

Bylsma didn't alter his forwards lines in yesterday's practice, sticking with these units:


Ruslan Fedotenko-Malkin-Sykora.

Matt Cooke-Staal-Tyler Kennedy.

Pascal Dupuis-Talbot-Craig Adams.

Miroslav Satan did drills with members of Malkin's line, while Eric Godard did them with Talbot's group.

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