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Penguins notebook: Blackhawks' penalty kill their Achilles' heel

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby tries to poke the puck from the Blackhawks' Ben Smith in the first period Saturday, March 1, 2014, at Soldier Field in Chicago.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby tries to poke the puck from the Blackhawks' Ben Smith in the first period Saturday, March 1, 2014, at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews goes five-hole on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a second-period score Saturday, March 1, 2014, at Soldier Field in Chicago.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews goes five-hole on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a second-period score Saturday, March 1, 2014, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014, 11:21 p.m.
 

CHICAGO — The obvious explanation, Joel Quenneville conceded, for the Penguins' power play's No. 1 NHL ranking is world-class skill.

But the Chicago Blackhawks coach said the Penguins' 25.8 percent conversion rate heading into Saturday night's game at Soldier Field goes beyond merely throwing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal on the ice together.

“The personnel on it really complements their success,” Quenneville said. “Knowing their play recognition, patience with the puck, movement (of it). A lot of different looks and a lot of different set-ups, entries, in-zone (looks), (and they're) not afraid to shoot it, as well.”

The Penguins' power play concerned Quenneville because if the defending Stanley Cup champions have a weakness, it's their penalty kill. Chicago entered Saturday with the 24th-ranked penalty-killing percentage in the league at 79.8 percent. The Blackhawks had the second-worst rate at home (75.7).

Routinely outdoors

The Penguins have played in three of the 10 outdoor games the NHL has staged over the past seven seasons. Few of those who played Saturday, though, had been part of all three.

Only Crosby, Malkin and Brooks Orpik participated in the New Year's Day Winter Classics of 2008 (at Buffalo) and 2011 (at home versus Washington) in addition to Saturday's game at Solider Field.

Crosby, Malkin and Orpik joined Craig Adams as players tying the NHL record for most outdoor games played (three). Adams was with the Blackhawks when they hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1, 2009.

Ice time adjustments

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said the extra stoppages and down time associated with a game played amid heavy snowfall allows him to adjust player ice times.

Extra breaks for snow sweeping or shoveling, a Zamboni use or teams swapping ends affords opportunities for top players to get some rest.

“You can try to take advantage of a shift change or a matchup if it's possible, and this is just another one of those that may be in the game due to the wind or the snow that's coming down,” Bylsma said.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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