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Therrien realigns offense
Thursday, October 30, 2008

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It's safe to say there were no double-takes when the Penguins got their assignments for practice yesterday at HP Pavilion.

Not after the puny amount of offense the team mounted the night before.

Coach Michel Therrien shuffled his forward line combinations before tonight's game in Phoenix, most notably separating the team's top scorers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and moving Malkin back to center.

"No surprise there," said Jordan Staal, who remained at center but dropped from the second to the third line with wingers Miroslav Satan and Tyler Kennedy.

Malkin moved from Crosby's right side to a line with Matt Cooke and Petr Sykora. Ruslan Fedotenko moved up to Crosby's line, where Pascal Dupuis remained. Dupuis, though, left practice after being hit with a shot. His status will be determined today.


Scouting report
  • Matchup: Penguins at Phoenix Coyotes, 10:08 p.m., Jobing.com Arena, Phoenix, Ariz.
  • TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
  • Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Ilya Bryzgalov for Coyotes.
  • Penguins: Are 0-1-1 through two games of four-stop road trip. ... Power play is 0 for 14 in four road games. ... Eric Godard is third in NHL with 37 penalty minutes through yesterday.
  • Coyotes: Have lost four of past five. ... Home penalty killing is last in league, 63.6 percent. ... Last in league in faceoffs, 41.6 percent.
  • Hidden stat: Phoenix C Olli Jokinen has played in 383 games in a row, the second-longest active streak in the NHL.

With Max Talbot still out because of an undisclosed injury, the fourth line had Mike Zigomanis centering Paul Bissonnette and Eric Godard.

"We're having a hard time generating [offense] after Crosby's line," Therrien said. "That's the danger of putting Malkin and Crosby together. You want to see how the rest of the crew will be able to generate, and obviously we didn't generate enough, so we've got to change the plan a little bit."

Therrien united Crosby and Malkin five games ago when the team was having a tough time scoring five-on-five. It's a move he has made in the past, often in-game, to give the team an offensive spark.

The Penguins won their first three games with that combination before a third-period collapse Saturday against the Rangers in New York led to a shootout loss, and Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

In those five games, Crosby and Malkin accounted for five of the team's 12 goals. On the season, those two have scored six of the Penguins' 24 goals. Miroslav Satan leads the team with four.

There are a few glaring numbers from other forwards.

Staal is one of four forwards with no goals. Sykora has one, although he missed the first three games of the season. Fedotenko had the only goal against the Sharks for his second. Tyler Kennedy had two in the season opener but has none since.

"We need to have some more guys with confidence in scoring," Sykora said. "You can't have just one or two guys."

The Penguins have had various problems on offense this season. Sometimes, it has been scoring on the power play. Other times, it has been getting full-strength goals. There has been trouble moving the puck up ice out of their end, trouble getting shots.

Things might have bottomed out Tuesday when the club got only 11 shots against San Jose, tying a franchise low.

The Sharks allow a league-low average of 23 shots a game.

"It seems we couldn't really create anything from our zone," Sykora said. "We couldn't make a pass to create odd-man situations. We couldn't get on the forecheck because their [defensemen] were first on the puck and they made a couple good plays, passes to kind of break through our trap."

Staal, who opened the season as Malkin's left winger, said it comes down to basics.

"Just getting shots is the main thing. I don't think we've gotten too many garbage goals lately," he said. "It's just getting the puck on net, getting to the net. We're not really paying the price to get there."

Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.
First published on October 30, 2008 at 12:00 am