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Penguins' slump threatens season

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By Tricia Lafferty
Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

Urgency and bruised confidence don't go too well together.

That's what the Penguins are dealing with in the midst of a horrific slump — seven losses in their past eight games.

"We're definitely not as confident as we were when we were on one of those (winning) streaks we've been on the past couple of years," defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

That's understandable considering the Penguins aren't playing their best hockey and haven't been for more than a month. The downward spiral started about a month and a half ago. Since Dec. 1, the Penguins are 6-13-1.

Players say now is not the time to dwell on the negatives. There's a need to get back on track. If the Penguins don't find a solution soon, the same team that advanced to the Stanley Cup final last season may not make the playoffs this year.

"There is no time to wait now," right wing Petr Sykora said. "We have to start winning games. Now is the time to start wining again because if we don't, it'll be too late."

With 43 games down and 39 to go — beginning with tonight's matchup at Philadelphia — the Penguins can no longer talk about how there is a lot of hockey left to be played. Less than a half of a season remains, which means the Penguins must start making their move.

"We know we gotta turn things around right now," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "I think everyone is in the right mind frame even though we've been losing. We just can't put everything together in the games. I guess the chemistry and camaraderie is a little bit off, but it's just a matter of putting a few good games together and getting in that mindset and getting that confidence back."

The game in Nashville last Thursday certainly didn't give the Penguins much reason to believe in themselves. They watched a 3-0 lead turn into a 5-3 loss. Maintaining leads has been a challenge for the Penguins this season and has contributed to their rattled confidence as of late.

"I think maybe when we have the lead, and we go down by one goal, or they score one goal to make it 3-1, it's almost a little bit different on the bench," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Last year, I don't know if we were more mentally sharp than we are this year or not, but you can see this year in those situations we are a little more fragile than we used to be. You can definitely sense it. The room gets quiet. The bench gets quiet."

The Penguins hope the turning point is near, preferably tonight when they face the Atlantic Division-leading Flyers. The Penguins usually don't need extra incentive heading into the rivalry game, but a win could be the start of something positive for the struggling team.

"It could be good for us," center Sidney Crosby said. "It's tough right now for us and an emotional game like that could be the right thing, so we'll try to make sure that the efforts are there."

Also on the horizon for the Penguins is a five-game homestand that begins Wednesday night when the Washington Capitals visit Mellon Arena.

"We'll go one game at a time," coach Michel Therrien said. "We need a big win, certainly (tonight). The purpose is to try and make the playoffs. We're still in that package to make the playoffs and we're going to give everything that we can. We have to remain focused."

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