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Slumping Kunitz looks to right his ship

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fans and members of the hockey media aren't the only ones talking about Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz's goal-scoring drought — 19 games, including 14 to open the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Kunitz admitted Tuesday after an optional practice at Southpointe that he, too, has discussed his scoring slump with teammates, coaches and, well, pretty much everybody he knows — excluding his newborn son.

"You go over film, do different things, see what maybe you've done different in the past," he said, adding that he must do a better job "moving (his) feet and going to tough areas where goals are scored."

Kunitz, who has displayed no signs of discouragement, has recorded seven assists and registered a plus-1 rating in the playoffs. However, after opening the postseason with a (bruising) bang against the Philadelphia Flyers, he rates just 19th overall with 37 hits.

He also isn't directing many pucks toward the cage.

Kunitz was not credited with a shot Monday in the Penguins' Game 1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes to start the Eastern Conference final. He has not registered more than two shots in eight games and has totaled one or none in six of those contests.

Still, coach Dan Bylsma did not come close to hinting yesterday that Kunitz's role as a top-line winger will change in any way - though Bylsma would like to see Kunitz return to the physical form that should blend ideally with the playmaking skill of top center Sidney Crosby.

"Every player has a foundation to their game; they have their role," Bylsma said. "(Kunitz's) role is straight-line, aggressive hockey to the net, (and) physical. If things aren't going well for him, he should always make sure he returns to that foundation. We've talked about it. He has to focus."

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