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Penguins

Penguins notebook: Mike Sullivan wants team to take fewer penalties

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 12:33 p.m.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby exits the penalty box against the Predators in the third period during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena. Coach Mike Sullivan reiterated to his team Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, the importance of staying out of the penalty box. When the Penguins have been shorthanded four or more times this season, they’re 5-5-3. When they’re shorthanded three times or fewer, they’re 4-2-0.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Penguins center Sidney Crosby exits the penalty box against the Predators in the third period during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena. Coach Mike Sullivan reiterated to his team Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, the importance of staying out of the penalty box. When the Penguins have been shorthanded four or more times this season, they’re 5-5-3. When they’re shorthanded three times or fewer, they’re 4-2-0.
The Sabres' Justin Falk shoves the Penguins' Jake Guentzel off the puck in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Sabres' Justin Falk shoves the Penguins' Jake Guentzel off the puck in the first period Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.

Jake Guentzel doesn't look like he belongs on a wanted poster.

The 23-year-old winger is no bigger than the 5-foot-11, 180 pounds he's listed at, and he barely looks old enough to shave.

Yet six weeks into the season, Guentzel is one of the most penalized players in the league, and a handful of his teammates are on the same list.

Coming into Tuesday night's game with Buffalo, Sidney Crosby had taken 10 minor penalties, tied for the most in the league. Guentzel was right behind with nine. Patric Hornqvist had eight. Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Reaves had seven.

For Guentzel, it represents a dramatic departure from last season when he picked up just five minors in 40 NHL games in the regular season.

“Definitely gotta be smarter out there and think a little more about that,” Guentzel said.

Part of the surge in penalties is probably because of the stricter enforcement of the slashing rule NHL refs have employed this season, but that's no consolation to Guentzel.

“I just gotta be better with my stick and check with my legs,” Guentzel said. “It's about thinking the game and doing the little things better.”

As a team, the Penguins were shorthanded 77 times coming into Tuesday's game, tied with Nashville for the most in the league.

The Penguins were shorthanded six times in each of the games they played last weekend, giving up two power-play goals per game in losses at Washington and Nashville.

It was enough for coach Mike Sullivan to make discipline his main talking point in his meeting with the team before Tuesday's morning skate.

“It's critically important to winning hockey games,” Sullivan said. “It's hard to win if we're going to take five and six penalties a game. It's a tall task to ask our penalty killers to kill that many.”

Turning the tables

When a teammate is in a scoring slump, he can count on Crosby to offer words of encouragement.

Late last month, for example, when Guentzel went six games without a goal, Crosby offered moral support.

“It's definitely good to have a guy like that,” Guentzel said. “It's cool to see that he's there, and he's gone through it, too.”

But how should teammates return the favor when Crosby is in a scoring slump of his own, as he was when he carried an 11-game goal drought in Tuesday's game?

“I think you just try to stay out of the way,” Guentzel said. “You know what kind of player he is. You know one of these games he's going to break out, and it's going to be fun to see.”

Niemi claimed

The Montreal Canadiens claimed former Penguins back-up goalie Antti Niemi off waivers from the Florida Panthers as they deal with injuries to Carey Price (lower body) and Al Montoya (concussion).

If no one had taken Niemi, the Penguins would have had the opportunity to reclaim him and send him to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Injury report

Center Carter Rowney continues to skate on his own as he recovers from a broken hand. He's expected back in the lineup near the end of November. Defenseman Matt Hunwick is taking a break from skating as his recovery from a concussion has plateaued.

Play-by-play man Mike Lange missed Tuesday's game with an illness, the team announced. Josh Getzoff filled in.

Honoring veterans

The Penguins hosted 15 veterans at morning skate and the game and wore special military-themed warm-up jerseys as they celebrated Veterans Day on Tuesday.

“To see them here, knowing what they do for our country, it's special,” Guentzel said.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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