Penguins' Chris Kunitz, shown here celebrating a goal in front of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo last month at the Consol Energy Center, played in his 600th NHL game last night.
By Shelly Anderson/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Over the first 12 days of November, the Penguins had a leisurely schedule, four games.
Now, they’re on the flip side.
Starting with the 2-1 loss Wednesday against Philadelphia, the Penguins have 11 games over the final 18 days of this month. They played Nashville Friday night at Consol Energy Center, the first of back-to-back games (they play at New Jersey tonight) and the second in a stretch of four games in six days.
You won’t find them complaining.
“It’s a grind, but I enjoy playing more games,” winger Beau Bennett said. “You don’t have to wait as long to play.”
It works both ways, they said. A tight schedule means things don’t fester for days after a disappointing game, and momentum doesn’t wane after a satisfying game.
“I think anytime you lose or you don’t play as well as you like, my thing is I always want to get back to work, whether there’s practice the next morning or there’s a game the next day,” forward Craig Adams said. “You don’t want to sit on that.”
The concession is practice time. Thursday, many of the team’s regulars did not skate in an optional practice. There won’t be a lot of scheduled practice sessions over this stretch, but Bennett noted that meetings and video session help compensate for fewer practices.
Besides, the busier schedule is preferable to waiting for days between games.
“We’re looking forward to playing hockey, playing a lot of games. We’re going to get a big dose,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “There are a lot of games coming in the next 20 days. We like that a lot more.
“It’s time to go.”
Kunitz hits 600-game mark
Penguins top-line left winger Chris Kunitz played in his 600th NHL game against Nashville, but he had no celebration planned.
“It doesn’t really have any significance to it,” Kunitz said. “It’s nice to be a part and play in this league. It’s not something that’s just given. The accomplishment is being able to play that many games.”
The milestone came one game after an interesting statistical trend was broken. Before he was held without a point in 2-1 losses against St. Louis last Saturday and Philadelphia Wednesday, Kunitz had been the only NHL player who had not gone two games in a row without a point dating to the start of last season.
“Offensively, things have been coming really well the last year, but you’ve got to earn it every night,” he said.
The string was broken in a game where Kunitz put the puck in the net in the first minute against the Flyers, but it was ruled he used a kicking motion to direct the puck, so it was not a goal.
“It would have been a nice goal if it counted, but it would have been nicer if we would have gotten the win,” Kunitz said.
Trotz likes the building
The Predators were making just their second trip to Consol Energy Center. The first was March 22, 2012, and the building made an impression on Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who during the earlier stop got a tour of the Penguins locker room and adjacent facilities.
“It’s well done,” said Trotz, who noticed that the arena is outfitted to last.
“What happens is that the game has evolved, coaching staffs have evolved, the video part of it has evolved, and the needs of a team have evolved over the course of years,” he said. “Buildings [often] are built to facilitate what hockey is [at that time], and over time they get outgrown.
“They did an excellent job [with Consol Energy Center] thinking about the future, taking probably more space so that you can keep putting in more things. It just keeps evolving, getting bigger and bigger.
“It’s well thought out. Hockey-wise, it’s one of the best ones.”
The Penguins recalled rugged forward Zach Sill, but he was not in the lineup. He had one goal, four points and 25 penalty minutes in 13 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. … Penguins defenseman Kris Letang missed the game-day skate because of illness but was in the lineup. So was defenseman Paul Martin, who returned after missing two games because of an undisclosed injury. … Penguins scratches besides Sill were forward Dustin Jeffrey and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.
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