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Guerin, E.J. offer advice on shortened season

| Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 10:42 a.m.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby shoots on Marc-Andre Fleury during practice at South Point Jan. 7, 2013. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
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Former Penguins player Bill Guerin attends the second day of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on June 23, 2012, at Consol Energy Center.

Bill Guerin was the godfather of the 2009 Penguins, the calming, serious and funny voice of influence in the locker room.

More than two years following retirement, Guerin has advice for the teammates who always trusted his guidance: Don't stress about the upcoming busy schedule.

There will be a logjam of games the NHL will fit into a small window of time during the next three months.

“I think everyone is making way too much of it,” Guerin said.

He would know.

Guerin played for the New Jersey Devils when they won the Stanley Cup in the 1994-95 season, which featured a 48-game schedule because of a labor dispute.

“Listen,” Guerin said, “you fall right back into it. Yes, there are a lot of games, and coaches might have to manage some players and goalies a little differently, but for the most part, guys are going to figure it out. You don't want to make a huge deal out of it.”

Guerin, the Penguins' player development coach, also noted that current players are so well-conditioned that the lengthy time off won't produce a significant impact. That's all the more reason they should not alter their on- or off-ice routines.

Nearly all of the Penguins skated at least four times per week during the lockout.

“I think we've done a great job of putting a lot of work in lately,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “We think we'll be fine.”

Although Guerin said he believes the Penguins' conditioning won't be an issue and the possibility of injuries will be overblown, there are other concerns produced by a 48-game schedule.

The last Penguins coach during a shortened season — Eddie Johnston in 1994-95 — is aware that a strong start is necessary.

His Penguins started 7-0 and 12-0-1 that season.

“And that was big for us,” Johnston said. “Trust me, getting off to a big start is huge. If they get off to a bad start, you're in trouble. It just isn't a very long season.”

Johnston said he hopes history repeats itself.

The Penguins started the 1994-95 season with two games in Florida and a game in New York against the Rangers before coming home.

“I hope we start on the road again this time,” Johnston said. “Guys are going to be trying to do too much at home because it's been so long since they've played.”

Johnston and Guerin said they believe these Penguins could be primed for success.

Guerin sees similarities between the Penguins and the Devils' first Cup team.

New Jersey was a year removed from a playoff nightmare, having lost in double overtime of Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals against its biggest rival, the Rangers.

The Penguins are one year removed from a nightmarish playoff loss against their biggest rival, the Philadelphia Flyers.

“I would hope we're motivated,” left wing Chris Kunitz said.

Also, New Jersey was relatively young and endured little turnover from the previous season. The same can be said of the Penguins.

“We just kind of picked up where we left off in New Jersey,” Guerin said. “I think we're in a similar situation now.”

A fast start, Johnston believes, could propel the Penguins to a big season.

“We've got the talent,” Johnston said. “And we've got 95 percent of the team back. Get off to a good start, and they'll be in great shape.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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