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Penguins notebook: Talent is there, but effort lacking

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 7:04 p.m.
Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun (92) and Kris Letang (58) stop the Jets' Evander Kane (9) during the third period in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. AP Photo/John Woods

OTTAWA — Sidney Crosby bluntly has stated after each of the Penguins' past two losses that they were “outworked” by the opponent.

Nothing terribly out of the ordinary with such an assessment from any captain, of course. Besides, it wasn't exactly a trade secret for anyone watching the 5-2 loss Wednesday to Toronto and the final two periods of the 4-2 loss Friday in Winnipeg.

The cold fact is the Maple Leafs and Jets displayed more drive, determination and discipline.

Thus, it would appear that priority No. 1 for the Sunday faceoff against Ottawa at Scotiabank Place, before any of those turnovers and other lapses can be addressed, is something far more fundamental.

They need to try.

A lot harder.

“We have the talent here. No one's ever questioned that. It's just a mindset thing,” right winger Matt Cooke said after the team's practice at the Bell Sens Plex. “We know we can score and create chances, but we have to be able to defend. I think we came back a little rusty and tried to make the same plays we were at the end of last season.”

Cooke was asked the difference between the Penguins' opening two wins and these past two losses. He placed that in the “mindset” category, as well.

“Obviously, there's emotion there automatically when you're playing the Flyers and Rangers. Playing Toronto and Winnipeg, we haven't had rivalries there. We got caught with our guard down a little bit. And that's something that needs to change in our room.”

Crosby, too, reiterated his contention to that effect.

“I think you saw our work ethic in Philadelphia and New York. You saw what we're capable of,” he said. “We need to get back to that.”

Back to work

Coach Dan Bylsma put the Penguins through a fast-paced, 46-minute practice highlighted by hard one-on-one drills one generally sees early in a conventional training camp.

The only player missing was left winger Tanner Glass, whose left shoulder slammed hard into the boards in Winnipeg early in the third period. He returned and finished the game.

All lines and pairings remained the same except Dustin Jeffrey taking Glass' spot.

Snowy stuff

• As part of management's plan to preserve players' rest, the Penguins stayed in Winnipeg after the game and flew to Canada's capital Saturday afternoon.

• Because of the 5 p.m. faceoff Sunday, the Penguins are not scheduled to have a morning skate.

• Cold as it was in Winnipeg, the Penguins actually traded down with the trip, going from minus-3 degrees to minus-5 in Ottawa.

• The Bell Sens Plex, practice facility of the Senators, was filled well beyond reasonable capacity, mostly with hockey-playing children eager for a look. One shouted out to Crosby as he came off the ice, “Have a nice day!”

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic

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