Penguins hope youngest player can help on lengthy road trip
The Penguins are hoping their youngest player can positively impact their second-longest road trip of the season, a three-game swing through Western Canada that could be their most important set of games away from Consol Energy Center this season.
Derrick Pouliot, 21, will accompany the team and likely will play “the majority” of games with fellow defenseman Christian Ehrhoff out of the lineup because of concussion symptoms.
Pouliot, who has one goal and three points in nine games, has outperformed fellow rookie Scott Harrington this season, which included the Penguins’ 4-0 loss Sunday to the Nashville Predators.
“He’s looking good right now in his last two starts with us,” Johnston said of Pouliot. “At least (Sunday), when he jumped up ice and carried the puck, you knew something positive was going to happen.”
The Penguins have not won back-to-back games since Jan. 10-13, at Montreal and home against Minnesota.
They’re 6-7-4 since they last won three in a row, Dec. 15-20, scoring three or more goals just seven times in those 17 games.
“We have to be better,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We have to find our game. Going on the road sometimes simplifies things. A little bit of adversity isn’t a bad thing. We’ve got to make sure that we handle it the right way. This will be a big trip for us. We need to make sure that our game is much better and much more consistent.”
Start it up
The Penguins no longer lead the NHL in first-period goals. A big reason for that has been the past seven games, when they allowed the opposing team to score first six times.
The Blackhawks have an NHL-best 55 first-period goals, the Penguins 54.
“There have been some tough bounces,” forward Nick Spaling said. “We’ve come out playing pretty well lately. We’ve been happy with our starts.”
In and out
Forward Beau Bennett and defenseman Simon Despres missed extended stretches because of minor injuries, Bennett in the first period and Despres in the second.
Johnston said neither injury was anything serious.
A game after he was a healthy scratch, Bennett was a minus-1 in 10:26, his third-lowest ice time total of the season.
“I thought he was OK,” Johnston said. “For all of our players, we talked about compete. You’ve got to compete offensively, too.”
No Comeau on trip
Forward Blake Comeau (broken hand) will not travel to Western Canada on Monday. He will remain in Pittsburgh and work out on his own with the hope of rejoining his teammates for practice Feb. 9.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully having him in a full practice when we get back,” Johnston said.
Around the boards
In their last eight afternoon games, the Penguins are 2-5-1. … The Penguins have been shut out five times this season, twice in their past three games. … In losses to Washington and Nashville, the Penguins had 48 shots on goal and 42 shot attempts that were blocked.