Penguins notebook: Traveling to Sochi Games a concern

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DALLAS — Penguins general manager Ray Shero, assistant general manager of Team USA, will head to Sochi, Russia, next month for the 2014 Olympics.

None of his family members, however, figure to be.

Shero said that while “it’s not 100 percent” that his wife and a son who had considered making the trip will stay home, the chances of them traveling to the Games are “pretty slim at this point.”

Although some personal and logistical issues factored into that decision, concerns about security in Sochi — especially for non-participants — also were taken into consideration.

Shero noted, though, that many members of the U.S. staff, including Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Tony Granato, plan to have wives and/or children go to Russia.

Security has become a front-burner issue in recent weeks, and Shero said “we’re going to find out more in the next little while” what additional actions might be taken to safeguard U.S. players and staff. He added that while it’s “just human nature” for people to be concerned about security at the Games, precedent shows a high-profile sporting event isn’t the only target a terrorist might consider.

“When you’re at a mall sometimes, you think about this stuff,” Shero said. “Anywhere, this stuff could happen. There just happens to be much more publicity surrounding [the Games], for sure.”

A little rest never hurts

The Penguins, who will play their third game in four nights when they face Dallas tonight at American Airlines Center, got an unscheduled day off Friday.

They had planned an early afternoon workout in suburban Dallas, but Bylsma called it off in the wake of the 6-4 victory Thursday night on Long Island.

Assessing the Dupuis factor

The Penguins were allowing an average of 2.18 goals per game before right winger Pascal Dupuis had a season-ending knee injury Dec. 23 in Ottawa. Beginning with a 5-0 loss against the Senators that night, they have been giving up an average of 3.23.

Among Dupuis’ teammates, there is no consensus on how much his absence has contributed to that increase.

“He’s a responsible two-way forward,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “For [the first] line, I think he helped a lot in that regard.

“A lot of times you’d see him be a defensively responsible high forward who picked guys up on the backcheck. He was really good at that. There might be some correlation between the numbers.”

Defenseman Brooks Orpik disagreed.

“There are so many variables,” he said. “[Dupuis] is a really good defensive player, but that difference in a number can’t be attributed to a guy unless it’s a goalie that gets hurt and all of a sudden you get a minor league goalie playing.

“If you look at some of the breakdowns, I don’t necessarily think it’s one guy. I think it’s been the whole mentality of the team. We’re in a hurry to get out of our zone. We just haven’t played with patience at all.”

Left winger Chris Kunitz, one of Dupuis’ linemates, suggested the ripple effect of Dupuis’ injury might have an impact on the defensive performance.

“When [Dupuis] goes down, someone has to come up from another line,” he said. “It puts a little more pressure on everybody. We’ve added guys back. It shouldn’t be an excuse when somebody goes down. Things change.

“We have to focus and be a better team. I think we’ve let some tendencies and habits get into our game that really hurt us and don’t let us forecheck and get into the game we want to play.”

Goligoski makes an impact

Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski, dealt to the Stars in the trade for Niskanen and winger James Neal nearly three years ago, has recorded two assists in each of his team’s past two games, both lopsided victories.

Goligoski has five multiple-point games this season and leads Stars defensemen in assists (19) and points (21).

Another former Penguin playing for Dallas, Sergei Gonchar, has one goal and 15 assists in 45 games. His plus-minus rating of minus-6 is the worst of any Stars defenseman.


Seth Rorabaugh contributed to this report. Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.

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