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Penguins' stars taking more penalties

Penguins/NHL Videos

NHLI via Getty Images
James Neal headshot
By David Golebiewski
Saturday, March 22, 2014, 10:51 p.m.
 

The Penguins have suffocated opponents in short-handed situations in 2013-14, killing penalties at the second-best clip (86.2 percent) among NHL teams. And, on the whole, the Pens have played a disciplined brand of hockey, cutting their average penalty minutes from 11.7 per game during the strike-shortened 2012-13 season to 10.6 minutes in 2013-14. The club has been more lax with penalties during the New Year, though — and their high-scoring stars are among those spending more time in the box.

The Penguins averaged less than 10 penalty minutes per game during the fall, well below the 11.1 NHL team average this season. But that figure spiked to nearly 14 minutes per game in early 2014. Beset by injuries and perhaps fatigued by the extra ice time, the Pens' normally stellar penalty kill proved mortal in January and February (73.6 percent kill rate, compared to the 82.1 percent NHL average).

The PK has received some well-deserved rest so far in March.

In the box

Month PIM/Game

October 9.7

November 9.3

December 11.5

January 13.1

February 13.8

March 8.8

NHL Avg. 11.1

Source: ESPN.com

With top penalty killer Paul Martin shelved by a broken hand and the playoffs less than a month away, the Penguins need to avoid giving opponents the man advantage. Sharpshooter James Neal, who served a five-game suspension earlier this season for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand in the head, especially needs to keep his cool.

Neal's physical style has helped him net the sixth-highest points per game total (1.11) in the game, but he's also spending far more time in the penalty box.

Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, first and 30th respectively in points per game, also are racking up more penalty minutes. Evgeni Malkin isn't drawing the ref's ire more often this season, but he joins Neal in the one penalty minute per game club.

Stars sitting

2013-14 2012-13Player PIM/G PIM/G Diff.

James Neal 1.02 0.65 +0.37

Sidney Crosby 0.58 0.44 +0.14

Chris Kunitz 0.9 0.8 +0.10

Evgeni Malkin 1.00 1.16 -0.16

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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