Power-play units likely to change
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The inability of the Penguins' power play to generate a goal -- or meaningful pressure, momentum or anything other than frustration -- was a significant factor in their 4-3 overtime loss against Philadelphia in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series Wednesday.
Whether their effectiveness with the man-advantage will change in Game 2, set tonight at Consol Energy Center, is hard to say, but it looks as if the personnel groupings when they're on the power play will.
Coach Dan Bylsma unveiled a series of reconfigured units at practice Thursday, including a:
• No. 1 unit that has Steve Sullivan and Kris Letang at the points, with Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby or James Neal up front.
• No. 2 group with Sullivan and Paul Martin on the points, and Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Crosby (or, presumably, Neal on occasion) up front.
• Second No. 2 unit that has Martin and Crosby at the points, and Staal, Cooke and Tyler Kennedy up front.
In addition to moving personnel around, Bylsma acknowledged that the Penguins might seek to divide playing time between their first and second units more evenly.
That's not a major surprise, considering that it's possible Malkin and Crosby will be in different groups.
Radical adjustments don't seem unreasonable, considering that the Penguins have scored on one of their past 44 power plays in the playoffs, and are in a 0-for-36 funk on home ice in the postseason.
Neither of those streaks was in real jeopardy during Game 1.
"We felt like we'd take a shot, and they'd clear it." Crosby said. "We didn't really get set up and really try to expose anything.
"We were trying to get shots, which is always a good mentality to have on any power play, but, sometimes, I think we probably could have been a bit more patient and tried to really set something up."
Sullivan became uncharacteristically testy while discussing the power play's performance in the opener.
"I think it's been one game that we didn't score a power-play goal," he said. "For the last 12 games or 15 games, it hasn't been a story.
"It's been the same five guys on the ice for those 12 games, so I don't know why it's become such a big story for one game."
The 74 combined hits doled out by the Penguins and Flyers in Game 1 might have been enough for most of a series for other playoff matchups, but not with these clubs.
Physical play is expected to continue.
"It's going to be key for us," said Flyers forward Brayden Schenn, who was credited with four hits. "Everyone was banging. We were banging around pucks, getting scoring chances."
That could take a toll.
"We know we can play a physical game," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. "We do still have a lot in the tank."
The only person perhaps surprised by the hitting in the opener was Flyers winger and former Penguins star Jaromir Jagr, who made this prediction before Game 1:
"In my opinion, I don't think it's going to be that physical, like everybody thinks. Both teams have a lot of skilled guys who like to play hockey. People think that those two teams hate each there, are going to try to kill each other. I don't think it's going to be that kind of game.
"I think it's going to be a lot of skill game."
The Penguins' final power play of Game 1 came at 1:49 of the third period when Crosby drew an interference penalty against Jagr while the two headed toward the Flyers blue line.
Jagr, who threw up his hands in a failed effort to convince officials he wasn't impeding Crosby, had an entertaining description afterward.
"He got me first from behind," Jagr said. "He's quick enough [that] he doesn't have to do that. He can pass me anytime he wants to. ... If he wanted to beat me at skating, he could do it anytime."
Crosby didn't bite.
"I honestly don't know what he's talking about," he said. "Why would I hold him? I had a clear-cut breakaway. He made a good play. He had to hold me up, or else I'd be gone."
As for Jagr's belief in Crosby's speed advantage, Crosby noted that Jagr was at the end of a shift at the time of the penalty, but, in general, "He can go. Once he gets going, he's pretty good."
Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy rejoined the lineup for Game 1 after sitting out the final six games of the regular season while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He had a limited workload, nine minutes, 23 seconds of ice time, but reported no problems.
"Everything felt great," he said after practice Thursday.
Injured defenseman Matt Niskanen skated with conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice Thursday. ... Twelve skaters and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky participated in a Flyers optional practice. ... Philadelphia defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon who left Game 1 because of an unspecified injury, did not practice and could be replaced by Pavel Kubina, although coach Peter Laviolette noted: "I don't comment on injuries. I don't comment on [the] lineup."
First Published April 13, 2012 12:10 am