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Rossi: Coaches not to blame for power play

| Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010

The Penguins made the call to keep assistant coach Mike Yeo from joining the start of this five-city trip. Coach Dan Bylsma's next move should be to take Yeo off the power play.

It would be far better for Yeo to lose one of his responsibilities than something more valuable — and his recent three-day hospital stay because of an undisclosed medical condition is cause for concern that his health is at stake.

Something is at stake for Penguins superstar centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, as well.

They began Friday tied for 19th among NHL players with 14 power-play points, though Malkin missed seven games early in the season. Still, a combined 28 power-play points by two former scoring champions!

Watching his two highest-paid stars turn advantages into disappointment must be agonizing to majority co-owner Mario Lemieux, who turned power-play points into six scoring titles as a player.

Yeo is not the reason the Penguins began Saturday dead-last in the NHL at 14.4 percent on the power play after falling to 17 percent last season following a combined 19.8 percent from 2005-07. Neither is the absence of power-play quarterback Sergei Gonchar, who played in only 25 games last season and has missed 16 contests this year.

No, the problems date to early last season, when Malkin decided that he would follow Crosby's lead of freelancing on the power play at the first sign of trouble.

Hey, don't take my word for it. A rival penalty-killer recently confided that the Penguins' power play is now easy to defend when the puck is on the stick blade of either Crosby or Malkin because "they want to do their own thing."

I doubt Lemieux could convince them otherwise, let alone Yeo.

Yeo has tried, by the way.

I've watched too many practices to blame Yeo for this sickening power play. I've seen him work too many long days to hold anything but admiration for his commitment to fixing the power play's problem.

Players, not coaches, fix problems. With all due respect to Bylsma, he didn't score any goals or make any saves on the Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup last season.

Yeo can't design a power-play scheme that will prevent Crosby and/or Malkin from trying to make something out of nothing.

Yeo certainly shouldn't work himself sick trying, which I suspect he already has done.

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