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Penguins

Penguins winger Carl Hagelin tries to shake out of goal-scoring slump

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, 8:06 p.m.
The Penguins' Carl Hagelin jumps to avoid the puck in front of Lightning goalie Peter Budaj on Nov. 25, 2017.
Getty Images
The Penguins' Carl Hagelin jumps to avoid the puck in front of Lightning goalie Peter Budaj on Nov. 25, 2017.
The Penguins' Carl Hagelin (left) hasn't been able to find his goal-scoring touch this season.
The Penguins' Carl Hagelin (left) hasn't been able to find his goal-scoring touch this season.

Carl Hagelin, by his own admission, isn't a good golfer.

He has a pretty good excuse for that, though. His summers are so short, he doesn't have any time to work on his game.

Since Hagelin broke into the NHL with the New York Rangers as a rookie out of Michigan in 2011, he has appeared in 112 playoff games. That's tops in the league by a wide margin.

Over the last four years, his shortest season was in 2014-15, when the Rangers were ousted by Tampa Bay in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals.

The year before that, the Rangers lost to Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup Final. The two years after, of course, Hagelin won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins.

On one hand, Hagelin's place on the postseason games-played list is, understandably, a point of great pride.

“My earliest exit in the playoffs has been the second round,” Hagelin said. “I've been fortunate to be on good teams and fortunate to go deep in the playoffs and, obviously, fortunate to have two Cups.”

On the other hand, it's a distinction he might be paying for today.

Counting the regular season and playoffs, Hagelin has played 481 games over the past six seasons. That's fourth most in hockey, trailing Ottawa's Derrick Brassard, Chicago's Brent Seabrook and Carolina's Justin Williams and ranking just ahead of Anaheim's Andrew Cogliano.

Coincidentally or not, Hagelin is in the midst of the worst offensive season of his career. After scoring between 14 and 17 goals in each of his first four full seasons in the league, he has two goals in 43 games this season.

The other players on the top-five list in games played experienced similar drop-offs in recent times.

Brassard had 14 goals last season after scoring 27 the year before. Seabrook's play has tailed off to the point where he was a healthy scratch for the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

Williams has seven goals at the season's midpoint after cracking 20 the last two seasons in Washington. Cogliano has five goals this year after scoring 16 last season.

Hagelin is loath to use fatigue as an excuse for a lack of production, but he admitted there are days he doesn't feel quite himself because of a lack of energy.

“It's either your lungs, your legs or your brain, one of the three,” Hagelin said.

He said the feeling soon passes, however.

“You're always going to have those games where you're not feeling great, but in general, I can't say I've had a month or so where I feel like my legs aren't there,” Hagelin said. “I love the game too much to let my mind think that way, and that's the way it needs to stay.”

Hagelin isn't alone in the Penguins locker room when it comes to carrying a heavy workload. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the Penguins have played 257 games, the most for a team in a two-and-a-half season stretch in the history of the league.

How much that explains the team's mediocre 22-19-3 record to this point this season is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: The Penguins need to use a light January schedule to their advantage.

In addition to the five-day off week they're enjoying, they also will have a three-day All-Star break at the end of the month.

“If you get some time off, you've got to make sure you make the most of it, especially for us,” Hagelin said. “All time off is good if you do the right thing while you're off. I think that's our mindset.”

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

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