Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penguins' Problems Likely to Be Temporary

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penguins' Problems Likely to Be Temporary

Article excerpt

First, the obvious: The Penguins are a lesser team than the one that hoisted the Stanley Cup in June. At least, temporarily.

If one were to take the key offseason changes and put them in the form of a trade - say, Matt Cullen, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Marc-Andre Fleury and Trevor Daley for all the players who replaced them - it wouldn't look real pretty on paper.

Or any other canvas, notably ice.

The good news is that this team could have been buried by those changes combined with a ludicrous schedule but instead woke up Thursday in first place in the Metropolitan Division.

"It's kind of deceiving," said defenseman Kris Letang of the standings, and he's right because the teams immediatelybehind the Penguins have games in-hand - including the New Jersey Devils, who had a chance to vault the Penguins with a win Thursday against Edmonton.

But Letang was equally right when he said, "At the end of the day, we're still sitting in a pretty nice spot."

The best news of all is that the worst of the Penguins schedule will be a memory by Monday. Instead of cursing them, the schedule-makers might have done them a favor by making the toughest part the early part.

It will only get better as the season progresses. After Jan. 20, the Penguins will play just two games outside the Eastern time zone.

Everyone knew the first-quarter schedule would be arduous. Upon further review, it's just plain silly.

By the time the Penguins are finished with their latest set of back-to-back games, this weekend in Washington and Nashville, they will have played 13 of their first 19 games on the road, including a trip to Western Canada, and six sets of back-to-back games (Tampa Bay and Toronto, by contrast, have played just two sets, New Jersey three).

Nobody has played more games, more road games or more back-to-backs than the Penguins. But that's not the eye-opener.

This is: In every second game of their back-to-back sets, the Penguins have played a team that did not play the night before and was sitting at home waiting. It'll happen again Saturday night in Nashville.

How is that possible? …

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