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Penguins notebook: Winning home games crucial for Penguins

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, November 27, 2014 7:45 p.m

Players maintain that looking at the standings during the first half of the season is pointless.

The reality is, however, the Penguins could be engaged with the New York Islanders most of the season to determine the Metropolitan Division’s winner.

And the next three weeks may represent an opportunity for the Penguins to make a move.

Tied with the Islanders atop the division, the Penguins face an upcoming schedule that, on paper, isn’t horribly difficult.

Eight of the Penguins’ next 11 games will be played at Consol Energy Center, with only three of those home games against teams that are in playoff position.

Two of those three road games are against teams that are struggling: Carolina and Columbus.

The Penguins especially are focused on playing better at home. While their 7-2-1 home record ranks among the league’s best, the Penguins have been subpar in many home games this season, producing most of their signature performances so far on the road.

“I think it’s important to start playing better at home,” center Sidney Crosby said. “We’ve been on the road a good chunk of this month. We want to establish home ice advantage and make sure that we’re playing well here. We need to get some momentum going in this building.”

The Penguins played poorly in home losses to the Islanders and Flyers earlier this season and blew a late lead in a setback against Dallas.

Even in Wednesday’s win over the Maple Leafs, the Penguins produced an uneven performance, playing for long stretches without registering a shot on goal.

“We want to be a good home team,” defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. “You set a base during the regular season, and you try to get in that good position during playoff time. To be home at that time is huge.”

While the Penguins play a number of struggling teams during the next month, the Islanders’ schedule intensifies. The Islanders face two upcoming challenges against Western Conference power St. Louis, along with difficult trips to Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota and Washington.

The Penguins have won 12 of their past 15 games but believe they can be better. This month seems to represent such a chance.

Comeau earns high praise

Crosby doesn’t know if right wing Blake Comeau, signed this summer to be a bottom-six contributor, will continue to play so well in the top six.

But the Penguins’ captain has been quite impressed.

“It’s hard to say (whether he will continue to produce as this rate),” Crosby said. “But he’s doing his job. It’s not easy getting thrown on different lines. He’s done a great job to use his speed and use his shot. He goes to the net a lot. It’s nice to see a guy’s hard work get rewarded like that.”

Team gets a little rest

Penguins coach Mike Johnston gave the Penguins a day off Thursday before playing Carolina on consecutive nights Friday and Saturday.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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