Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on facing Detroit in tonight's exhibition final: "They're a solid team. It will be a good test before the season opens."
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Craig Adams' initial answer seemed almost reflexive.
Asked Tuesday what the Penguins want to get out of their preseason finale at 7:38 p.m. today against Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, Adams responded, "I think we'd like to win."
No doubt, but exhibition results have the staying power of sky-writing, so defeating the Red Wings really isn't the Penguins' primary objective.
Consistently doing the things that would give them a reasonable opportunity to beat Detroit, and other quality opponents, when the 2013-14 regular season begins next week is far more important. And those are things that, for the most part, the Penguins haven't done with much consistency while going 2-2-1 in their first five preseason games.
• Matchup: Penguins at Detroit Red Wings.
• When: 7:30 p.m.
• TV: Root.
"We want to play a lot better," Adams said. "I wouldn't say we've had a great preseason so far. The practices and stuff have been really good, but the games have been sort of lackluster.
"We need to bring some intensity and execute better and battle harder. All of those things we'd want to do in a regular-season game."
The Penguins are coming off a 3-2, shootout victory Monday night against Chicago at Consol Energy Center. Well, against a bunch of guys wearing Blackhawks sweaters, anyway. The crest on the front was far more recognizable than most of the nameplates on the back.
Identifying the opponents shouldn't be nearly as much of a challenge tonight. After all, Detroit's roster is liberally laced with some of the most-renowned names in the game, including Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson.
"They're a solid team," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It will be a good test before the season opens."
Fleury has had a mostly forgettable training camp and said he has spoken with new goaltending coach Mike Bales "about the things I want to work on" tonight, although he didn't elaborate.
Most of Fleury's teammates will be looking to polish one or more facets of their individual games, as well, but there also are some broad issues the Penguins will try to address.
"Our intensity level has to be higher, and our execution level," Adams said. "Those things sort of go hand-in-hand.
"It's tough for someone to go in and forecheck if we don't come through the neutral zone and put the puck in the right spot. Then, you don't look like you're working very hard, because you're chasing."
That was the case for much of the first two periods Monday, when the Penguins seemed overmatched against an opponent with decidedly inferior talent.
Coach Dan Bylsma characterized his team's work for much of that evening as "sloppy," and no one disputed his choice of words.
"The last couple of games, I don't think we're very happy with the [attention to] details we've had," center Brandon Sutter said. "We have to try to correct them. We're giving up way too many turnovers. That's what's killing us."
Or, more to the point, what could do that to the Penguins once the games begin to count.
"We've been sloppy, at times," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We've shown some real good spurts of effort and execution, then we've had some poor periods."
While no aspect of the Penguins' game has sparkled through the first five exhibition games, the players contend there is no area of particular concern.
"We know we can score goals," Sutter said. "Our offense is doing fine. It's our play away from the puck and our play in our own zone that we're having a tough time with and we have to get better at. That's what these games are for, to work out the kinks and the problems."
True enough, but the Penguins are about to run out of exhibition games.
After tonight, they won't pull their game sweaters on again until Oct. 3.
When New Jersey comes to Consol Energy Center that night for the start of the regular season, there will be fanfare and ceremonies and, most important, two points at stake.
Which is why the Penguins believe they must have something close to an opening-night mentality tonight.