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Penguins’ strategy for breaking power play slump? Not practicing it | TribLIVE.com
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Penguins’ strategy for breaking power play slump? Not practicing it

Chris Adamski
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Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan yells instructions from behind Sidney Crosby (87), Evgeni Malkin (71), and Patric Hornqvist (72) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets in Pittsburgh, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. The Penguins won 4-0. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A day after hinting he’s reached a breaking point with a leaky power play that has allowed a league-high 11 shorthanded goals, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan used a practice to address the problem in a peculiar way.

By not practicing the power play at all.

Sullivan never fully addressed the reasoning for bypassing utilizing a portion of his valuable practice ice time on the power play, instead just speaking some obvious truths.

“Well we usually work on it daily, and it’s an important part of our team,” Sullivan said. “It’s an aspect of our game that’s won a lot of games for us. But certainly, I think we’re all well aware of the amount of goals that we have given up – and we can’t continue in that vein and continue to win consistently.”

The Penguins have allowed three shorthanded goals over their past six games, losing four of them including a 6-3 defeat Monday to New Jersey.

Sullivan on Tuesday discussed how a team’s power play – even if it’s not scoring – needs to at minimum build and hold momentum. Allowing the opponent to score, of course, has the opposite effect – and that’s happened all too often lately.

“We are all well aware of that,” Sullivan said, “and the coaches have had discussions what we are going to do with each unit and where we are going to go. We have left nothing off the table. We have those conversations all the time on whether we stick with the top unit that’s been together for so long and has been so good – or, do we think it’s time for change.”

Finding out what those discussions concluded will have to wait until Wednesday. Offensively, the Penguins still rank sixth in the NHL in conversion percentage (24.8 percent), after all, a year after it had the best statistic in that category in almost three decades. The Penguins have 13 power-play goals over their past 12 games.

Evgeni Malkin – he of the brutal turnover on the power play Monday – said that Sullivan is stressing to keep shifts short so that they are not fatigued going the other way if the opponent gains possession.

“We give up so many scoring chances,” Malkin said. “If we play four forwards, we need to understand to (pursue) loose pucks and all five guys need to backcheck, not just two guys or like one guy.”

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long .

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.