Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Newcomers Do Part to Help Kill Penalties

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Newcomers Do Part to Help Kill Penalties

Article excerpt

It was an ominous beginning.

An utterly predictable one, too.

Their first three games of the season, the Penguins were short-handed 11 times; three of those ended with opposing players celebrating goals.

"Those first couple of games were tough," center Matt Cullen said.

As the Penguins quietly suspected they might be.

Not because of any major flaws in their scheme or personnel, but because of the large-scale turnover among their penalty-killing forwards after the 2014-15 season.

The likes of Brandon Sutter, Craig Adams and Nick Spaling, to say nothing of defenseman Paul Martin, left the organization, and newcomers such as Cullen, Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr - the latter of whom sat out the first 10 games while recovering from elbow surgery - needed time to develop chemistry and fully absorb the nuances of the system.

"It's hard, with new players," said winger Pascal Dupuis, who rejoined the penalty-killing mix after sitting out most of last season because of blood clots. "You have to learn how to play together."

The newcomers seem to have done a pretty good job of that the past few weeks.

The Penguins had a run of 21 consecutive successful kills end when Calgary got a power-play goal in its 5-2 victory Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, but they still have given up just two goals the past 31 times they were short-handed.

While that level of efficiency can't be sustained for an extended period, it does indicate how effective the Penguins penalty-killers can be when performing to their potential.

"It may be unrealistic, but to be somewhere close to that would be our goal," Bonino said. "And I don't think it's unattainable."

For the season, they are killing 88.6 percent of power plays, the fourth-best rate in the league before play Sunday.

Before being idled by an undisclosed, and possibly undetermined, medical issue Friday, Dupuis had joined Bonino, Cullen and Fehr in the core group of experienced penalty-killers. …

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