Penguins aim to extend recent strong play to road, where struggles persist
Since the Penguins got back to .500 on Jan. 7, they seemingly have turned their season around and are back to looking like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. But while the Penguins have gone 9-3 since then, they have won eight consecutive at home and are 1-3-0 on the road over the past month.
As they boarded a plane to head farther west than Detroit for the final time this season, the Penguins recognized their play on the road must improve down the stretch, too.
“We have always been pretty good at home,” captain Sidney Crosby said, “but on the road we have to find ways to be better. You have to raise your level a bit when you're on the road, and we have to do a better job of that. I think it's a good challenge here with the two teams we are playing on this trip, and we have to find ways to continue to get points.”
The Penguins play Friday at Dallas and Sunday afternoon at St. Louis. The Stars and Blues currently sit as playoff teams.
In assessing their recent road play, Crosby said the Penguins played well during their mid-January California swing despite losing two of three games, an assertion coach Mike Sullivan has made as well. But Saturday's stinker at New Jersey — the Penguins managed 16 shots in a 3-1 loss — decidedly was not an example of the proverbial strong road game.
“I don't think we look too much into that,” goalie Matt Murray said of the recent struggles away from Pittsburgh. “We just try to execute our gameplan. We know that we have a gameplan that will give us a chance to win, and if we execute it, we can on any given night. So that's where our focus lies.”
Since Jan. 7, the Penguins are averaging 5.1 goals at home but 2.0 on the road.
This weekend is the Penguins' final foray outside of the Eastern time zone during the regular season. All of their 12 road games after Sunday are against Eastern Conference opponents.
“We have had stretches of our schedule that have been a challenge to this point,” Sullivan said. “So I think, certainly, when you play in your same time zone it helps you to maintain some level of consistency, in your sleep habits, your living habits, your eating habits. So I think that will help us down the stretch. (But) it's not anything that other teams don't have to deal with. We are no different.”