Evgeni Malkin hopes to boost Penguins’ sputtering power play
At one time, seven goals meant quite a lot in Pittsburgh.
Particularly if you enjoyed chili.
A generation or two ago, anytime the Penguins scored seven or more goals at home, which was a regular occurrence during the prime of Mario Lemieux’s career, local participating Wendy’s restaurants distributed free bowls of the hearty stew to anyone with a ticket from the contest.
But much like a Rax’s roast beef deluxe sandwich or Chi Chi’s chimichangas, that promotion no longer is available in Western Pennsylvania.
It’s a shame too as the Penguins lead the NHL in games with four games of seven or more goals this season.
Through 13 games, they have scored 46 goals. That equates to an average of 3.54 goals, sixth most in the NHL after Tuesday’s games.
Offense hasn’t been a problem — except on the power play.
The Penguins have been dangerous on the attack despite a power play that went 0 for 14 the past seven games. For the season, they have six power-play goals on 37 opportunities. That equates to a conversion rate of 16.2%, 22nd in the NHL.
On Wednesday, with the benefit of three days between games, they worked on the man advantage for 25 minutes at practice.
“Yeah, you don’t get a lot of time to spend on it,” said forward Sidney Crosby, who leads the team with three power-play points. “With guys coming back and different guys moving in, it’s a good opportunity to spend some time on it. Just get familiar and make sure we’re executing.”
One of the guys coming back and moving into the top power-play squad is Evgeni Malkin. The superstar forward, who has been sidelined since Oct. 5, inhabited his typical spot in the right circle during drills with the top unit along with Crosby, defensemen Kris Letang, Justin Schultz and forward Jake Guentzel.
Forward Patric Hornqvist was bumped to the second unit along with forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Dominik Kahun, Jared McCann and defenseman Marcus Pettersson.
The return of Malkin, whose 143 career power-play goals is second-most in franchise history to Lemieux’s 236, will provide a boost, but that doesn’t mean the schematics of the power play need to be altered.
“We don’t have to change a whole lot,” Crosby said. “(Malkin) is going to be able to make plays if he gets in that spot for a one-timer and he’s able to create a lot from either his shot or setting up guys from there. As long as we all continue to all move and we’re all unpredictable, that’s the best thing that we can do.We don’t really have to change. He’s going to make plays, and we’ve just got to get open.”
The prolonged focus on the power play was aimed at fine-tuning their execution as well as integrating Malkin, whose only goal this season came on a power play during a season-opening 3-1 home loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 3, to the top group.
“It’s a little bit of both,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re trying to obviously get (Malkin) back in involved and get them some reps. We haven’t had a lot of power plays … the last handful of games. Just to get the guys reps in touching the puck. Some familiarity is important so we spent a fair amount of time on it today.”
For his part, Malkin, who is aiming to return to the lineup for Saturday’s home game against the Edmonton Oilers, is preaching patience.
“We have a great unit,” he said. “We just need a little bit more time to work it.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .