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Penguins notebook: Team is relaxed as road swing continues

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, November 5, 2014 5:48 p.m

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The good times continue for the Penguins heading into the second game of a five-game road trip.

Wide grins and shared smiles donned the faces of the Pens during their hour-long skate at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon. For a team averaging 4.09 goals per game, the relaxed nature is probably to be expected.

Five consecutive wins, 24 goals over that time and only five goals allowed. Three shutouts since their last loss, and even then they picked up a point after falling to Detroit in overtime on Oct. 23.

Perhaps the only glitch right now is seen in the inevitable as the Pens’ shutout streak ended Tuesday just over 13 minutes short of the franchise record set in 2013.

• Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, recipient of a four-year contract extension, will be back in the net Thursday after getting a breather Tuesday at Minnesota. Coming off back-to-back shutouts over the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres, Fleury will face a Jets team that has scored just five goals in their past four games. That includes only one goal in five-on-five situations.

• Ever since forward Evgeni Malkin moved back to center on the team’s second line, the third line has been something special to watch. Brendan Sutter‘s demotion has sparked a growing chemistry with Nick Spaling and Steve Downie. The line was responsible for two of the Pens’ four goals on Tuesday night. Downie (one goal, four assists) and Sutter (three goals, two assists) are both sitting on five points, and Spaling has two goals and one assist this season.

• The Penguins’ power play has been dominant all season, converting 41.3 percent of its chances. It’s no surprise, then, that the Penguins rank first in the NHL, 12 percentage points above their nearest competition. Coach Mike Johnston said after the game Tuesday that teams are “intimidated” by the prospects of his team on the man-advantage. “Our power play is the best deterrent we have out there,” he said.

• The Penguins will face the league’s fourth-ranked penalty kill unit on Thursday night. The Jets have killed off 45 of 51 penalties. The Pens’ penalty kill has stopped the past 30 chances by opposing teams.

Scott Billeck is a freelance writer.

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