Pens hope to break West woes on road trip
The Penguins are a perfectly respectable 5-3 on home ice this season. They've been at their best, however, on the road.
With so many players out with injuries, making for something of a makeshift lineup, a road trip might be just what the doctor ordered.
The Penguins will embark on a four-game trip starting Tuesday in Anaheim.
"A change of scenery is never a bad thing," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "Pittsburgh has great fans, but with any team, you feel like you need to be prettier at home."
This isn't the time for the Penguins to produce pretty hockey. With Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and Max Talbot unavailable for this trip — and Tyler Kennedy a big question mark because of an undisclosed injury — the Penguins would prefer to implement basic game plans against the Ducks, Los Angles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins.
New players such as Chris Bourque, Chris Conner and Martin Skoula are still early in their Penguins careers. Bourque and Conner, in fact, are quite early in their NHL careers.
"On the road, you can keep it simple and score dirty goals," Eaton said. "That can be great for a team."
The Penguins endured a successful but particularly busy October, which included four back-to-back scenarios.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has been wary of his team becoming fatigued and is pleased that games won't be played on consecutive nights during this road trip.
"We've played a lot of hockey," he said. "Things will spread out a little on the road. Hopefully we can get healthier as we go into this week."
Despite ending October with a disappointing 2-1 loss Saturday at home against struggling Minnesota, Bylsma is pleased with his team. He even gave the Penguins the day off Sunday, despite losing the night before.
"You look at our record right now and it's hard to complain," said Penguins right wing Bill Guerin, who has two of his three goals away from home.
"Hopefully, we can keep it going."
The Penguins have already enjoyed one successful road trip, winning four games in Philadelphia, Toronto, Ottawa and Carolina. Going back to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in Detroit, the Penguins have won seven straight road contests.
"It's good being on the road for a hockey team," Eaton said. "You get to know guys a little better by going out to eat and stuff like that."
With so many new faces suddenly in the lineup, everyone agrees that playing away from home could produce a more comfortable atmosphere.
The atmosphere out west, incidentally, hasn't been a good one for the Penguins.
Dating back to 1999, the Penguins are 1-13 with one tie in California. They haven't won in Anaheim since Dec. 10, 1997 and have not won in San Jose since Oct. 22, 1997. Evgeni Malkin's 2006 overtime game-winner in Los Angeles gave the Penguins their first road win against the Kings since 1999.
Still, the Penguins are eager to head west.
"It will be a chance to take a breather," Bylsma said. "We should have time to focus on our game."