Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Returning Players a Big Relief

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Returning Players a Big Relief

Article excerpt

Three days before Halloween, the Penguins scored eight goals in a rout of the Devils at Consol Energy Center. That was when they were healthy and soaring to the top of the Metropolitan Division behind a potent offense.

These days, with half the roster occupied by American Hockey League players because of an assortment of injuries and illnesses, the Penguins need a week's worth of games to score eight goals. Maybe more.

With three of their top seven scorers on injured reserve, as well as some of the their top defensemen, the Penguins have scored 11 goals in the past six games and will enter tonight's game against Carolina mired in an 0-3-1 skid, by far their worst slump of the season.

The good news is three of those injured players are scheduled to return to the lineup against the Hurricanes, including Beau Bennett, who has the potential to inject some scoring into the goal-starved lineup.

"I just have to come in and try to play my game and create offensively," said Bennett, who missed the past 16 games with a lower body injury and the mumps. "I think when we start getting guys back, it kind of slots guys more into their more comfortable positions. Right now, we're in a little bit of a slump, but once we get some guys back, it will improve."

Coach Mike Johnston also said fourth-line winger Craig Adams and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff could play tonight. Adams, who had played in a franchise-record 319 consecutive games, missed the past five with an undisclosed injury. Ehrhoff also missed the past five games after being injured in the 1-0 overtime victory Dec. 18 against Colorado.

"Right now, we're going through a tough time," Ehrhoff said. "Getting some guys back in the lineup will definitely be nice. Hopefully, the guys coming in can create some energy and help get the other guys' confidence up."

The Penguins remain among the top five scoring teams in the NHL, but they haven't scored four goals in a game since a Dec. 15 victory against the Lightning, a string of six games. They have been shut out in five of their past six periods, with the only tally coming from Sidney Crosby in the first period of a 3-1 loss Monday night to the Devils. …

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