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Pens insider: Penalty killing a concern in Stanley Cup playoffs

| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 9:54 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Blue Jackets' Mark Letestu beats Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in game one during first round Stanley Cup playoff action Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins have a problem.

They are heavily reliant on their special teams — they're statistically average, hardly Stanley Cup-caliber, in five-on-five play this season — but are being betrayed by a historical strength.

Something happened to the Penguins' penalty killing during the Olympic break, and it hasn't been fixed.

Before the break, the Penguins were killing 86.7 percent of their penalties, an outstanding number. Since returning Feb. 27, they have killed only 80.2 percent of their penalties.

The Penguins have allowed a power-play goal in 12 of their past 20 games.

“It is definitely a concern,” right wing Craig Adams said.

Of the 16 teams to qualify for the postseason, the Penguins rank 12th in even-strength scoring differential, making special teams' domination a necessity this spring.

Adams, one of the Penguins' top penalty killers, said players and the coaching staff are “trying to identify” the recent problems.

The loss of right wing Pascal Dupuis was a damaging blow to the penalty-killing unit. With Dupuis in the lineup, the Penguins killed 87.5 percent of their penalties, which was on pace to give the Penguins their second-best penalty-killing season in franchise history.

Without Dupuis, who sustained a season-ending knee injury Dec. 23, the Penguins have killed just 82.5 percent of their penalties.

The penalty-killing unit has deteriorated since the Olympics.

“We were very good up until then,” Adams said.

Adams said he believes the Penguins' penchant for turning the puck over is the primary reason for the decline in penalty kill percentage.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik's turnover led to Columbus center Mark Letestu's power-play goal in Game 1 of the first-round series Wednesday.

“We aren't getting clears when we have the chance,” Adams said. “There will always be times when it's a 50/50 situation and you get the puck out. But there have been times when we have clear control and we're still not getting it out. That's a problem.”

It's a problem that needs solved quickly.

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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