Penguins Notebook: Bylsma taking heat off Yeo on power-play woes
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on his team's struggling power play: "We've gone and investigated what other teams have done and do, and try to have a real good picture of what we think success is on a power play, as a coaching staff and as a unit, then we try to apply it in practice."
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The Penguins' power play features some of the finest offensive talents in the game, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin headlining the No. 1 unit.
It also features some of the worst production in the NHL, with a conversion rate of 14 percent that was third-worst in the league going into last night's games.
Assistant coach Mike Yeo, who oversees the power play, has been subjected to frequent, and often ferocious, criticism from some segments of the Penguins' fan base for that, and more than a few observers have suggested he should be relieved of those duties, if not flat-out fired.
Coach Dan Bylsma, however, made it clear yesterday that Yeo does not run the power play single-handedly and that his power-play responsibilities won't be given to fellow assistant Tony Granato or anyone else.
"What we do as a coaching staff is together, and uniform," Bylsma said. "Mike doesn't get free rein, [with the power play, where] I don't say anything. When we do a practice, I don't get free rein, [where the assistants] don't put their comments in.
"What we do is together. When we go to do something, we're together. We've weighed in, and we've given our two cents. We've gone and investigated what other teams have done and do, and try to have a real good picture of what we think success is on a power play, as a coaching staff and as a unit, then we try to apply it in practice."
"Mike Yeo is certainly the lead on the power play, but we're in unison, both as a team and as a coaching staff, about what we're doing. How we practice it, how we deal with our players in video [sessions] and in the coaches' room. We're together."
The primary problem with the power play, Bylsma suggested, is one of focus.
"Individually, unit-wise and focus-wise from the coaching staff, we need to be better in that regard, to think we're going to have success," he said. "We're prepared to work on it."
Defenseman Alex Goligoski and left winger Chris Kunitz, the Penguins' two remaining injured players, practiced again yesterday, and Bylsma said that "they're both doing really well" and that a decision on when to get them back in the lineup was "a couple of days away."
Goligoski, though, seems ready to return when the Penguins visit Montreal tomorrow.
"Obviously, you don't want to rush it, but I'm feeling good in practice and hopefully, will get in a game soon," he said. "I've been skating and got a little contact in. I'm getting the timing back, and everything like that. It's gone well."
Goligoski missed six games, returned for one, then sat out four more because of an unspecified injury.
The Penguins have given up the first goal in six consecutive games, and seven of the past eight.
They have done reasonably well during that span, going 5-2-1, but precedent suggests that spotting Montreal a 1-0 lead could be significant: The Canadiens are 10-1 when they open the scoring, and have earned all but five of their victories when getting the opening goal.
While the Penguins have the firepower to rebound from a one-goal deficit, consistently having to play from behind clearly can create problems.
"If they score the first one, we know we can come back," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "But some nights, when we get that first goal and we get going, we're a tough team to beat."
Montreal, coincidentally enough, is the only one of the Penguins' past eight opponents that didn't score first, as Crosby staked the Penguins to a 1-0 lead en route to a 3-1 victory Nov. 25.
New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur tied Terry Sawchuk's NHL career record of 103 shutouts when the Devils beat Buffalo, 3-0, Monday.
Not surprisingly, Fleury was impressed.
"He's averaging almost a shutout every 10 games, something like that," Fleury said. "That's pretty amazing. Maybe you can do it in a year, but to do it over your whole career is pretty amazing."
Actually, Brodeur is slightly ahead of a 1-in-10 pace. The victory against the Sabres came in his 1,026th appearance.
To put Brodeur's feat into perspective, consider that Fleury has just 15 shutouts in 261 games, none in 26 this season. Unless that changes, don't look for him to catch Brodeur.
"I have to start to get some," Fleury said. "But that's a really high record to get."
The Penguins returned center Mark Letestu to their Wilkes-Barre affiliate. He was recalled Saturday when a groin problem prevented Crosby from playing, and earned praise for his work in a 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago that night.
First Published December 9, 2009 12:00 am