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Penguins hope to reverse trend of poor spring showings at home

| Monday, April 7, 2014, 10:07 p.m.

Unlike the Penguins' home arena for the first 43 years of their existence, Consol Energy Center doesn't resemble an igloo.

It has, however, been a winter haven for the Penguins.

But come spring, it's been a different story.

This year, the annual Consol collapse came early, and it's a trend the team is aiming to reverse.

“Teams who've come into here, they know it's going be a tough game, and it's going to be tough to win here,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “Most of this season, we'd been doing that pretty good, but we've been on a stretch that's a little rough.”

The Penguins were on pace for one of the better home seasons in recent NHL memory when they took a 23-4 Consol Energy Center record into the final game before February's Olympic hiatus. A 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Feb. 7, though, started a home tailspin from which they have yet to recover.

The Penguins have won just four of their past 11 home games and are 4-5-1 since the Olympics. The 45-percent earn rate of points available pales in comparison to the 85.2-percent rate of points they'd picked up at home prior to the break.

The Penguins' next five games will be played at Consol Energy Center: the final three games of the regular season this week and the opening two games of the playoffs next week.

“There's a certain level of comfort when you're at home, but just because you're at home doesn't mean everything just falls into place when you go on the ice,” Sidney Crosby said. “You've still got to do certain things and play with the energy and the urgency that you need whether it's at home or on the road.”

Since Consol Energy Center opened, the Penguins have earned 70.8 percent of available points there in the regular season as opposed to 63.6 percent on the road.

This season — even with the mediocre play at home since early February — the difference is slightly more pronounced. The Penguins have taken 73.6 percent of points available at home. They completed their road regular season having taken 59.8 percent of points.

However, the Penguins' post-Olympics downturn in success at home is reminiscent of the fall-off they've experienced in home winning percentage in the playoffs each of the past three seasons.

The Penguins have won 68.7 percent of their regular-season games at Consol Energy Center the past three seasons. During the postseason in that time, they've won just 46.7 percent.

To be fair, home winning percentage among all NHL teams plummets in the playoffs. During the postseason, the numbers suggest home-ice advantage doesn't mean the same as it does when not as much is at stake during the long regular season.

Asked his opinion why, Fleury paused and pondered.

“There's better teams, and everybody is going all out every night,” he said. “And (both teams) have the same schedule, too. There's (rarely) back-to-backs, so both teams are fresh.”

If the team hopes to contend for the Stanley Cup, it knows the struggles at home the past six weeks can't be a harbinger of what's to come in the playoffs.

“You feed off the crowd at home, but you can't depend on that when it comes to playing your game,” Crosby said. “That's something we have to do ourselves.”

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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