The Pittsburgh Penguins have not looked like themselves the past few games. In the past five games, Pittsburgh is only 1-4 and is 3-4 so far in November.
Last weekend, Pittsburgh played back-to-back games against Nashville and New Jersey on Friday and Saturday. Pittsburgh got the best of Nashville winning 4-1, then they fell to the Devils 1-4.
Tonight, Pittsburgh will play one of the best teams so far in the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks.
The offense has gained some of their key players from injury. James Neal returned last Wednesday in the loss to Philadelphia. In addition, Beau Bennett returned to the lineup as well.
On Monday, Dan Bylsma compared the Pittsburgh Penguins’ scoring problems to a baseball player in a batting slump being worried about when he’ll get his next hit. Simply, Pittsburgh is not scoring enough goals. They are getting the shots but they can’t find the back of the net.
In the past four games the Penguins are shooting the puck nearly 30 times per game. Another problem is that Pittsburgh is not scoring on the power play. Pittsburgh has only scored 3/14. When you have that many opportunities to score on the power play you need to put the puck in the back of the net.
Despite scoring four goals against Nashville this past Friday, the Penguins still only have eight goals in the past five games and 25 in the past 12 after opening the season with seven wins and 30 goals in their first eight games.
Evgeni Malkin hasn’t scored in 13 straight games, the longest drought of his career. Sidney Crosby has one goal in the past 10.
The blue line isn’t helping either. Kris Letang has four goals in 11 games, Matt Niskanen has only three points in his past 13, and rookie Olli Maatta has gone pointless in the past 12 after a strong start.
On Monday, it was announced that Beau Bennett would be starting along side Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. This is different for Crosby who usually has Pascal Dupuis on his line along with Kunitz.
The third line will see Brandon Sutter center left wing Jussi Jokinen and right wing Brian Gibbons. Gibbons, who was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and will play his first NHL game against the Ducks. Sutter and Jokinen played together – and enjoyed much success – in Carolina two years ago. Gibbons was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s leading scorer with 22 points in 15 AHL games.
To add onto the recent Penguins woes, the offense just simply doesn’t seem to be clicking. Pittsburgh seems to be struggling to keep the puck in the offensive zone and finding the open player. This issue should be resolved, and it needs to happen sooner than later in order to help Pittsburgh to put the puck in the back of the net.
Pittsburgh will hope these line changes will give a little spark to the offense.
Pittsburgh will look to help turn around this recent slump and prove a point this week. Pittsburgh has a very long week starting with Anaheim, then will play Washington on Wednesday, and finally this weekend will play the Islanders and Montreal to round out the week.
In other related Pittsburgh news, the Penguins dropped 25-year-old center/left winger Dustin Jeffrey to waivers on Nov 17. Jeffrey was picked up Monday by the Dallas Stars.