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There's plenty of room for improvement in Game 4

| Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Michel Therrien wasn't about to name names Monday, but he also wasn't backing off post-Game 3 indictment of still-anonymous Penguins who are "not in the picture" against the Ottawa Senators.

"When you don't see a guy in the play, that means he doesn't move his feet, that he doesn't make plays happen," Therrien said. "That means a lot of things. We've got some guys that so far have been a disappointment."

The Penguins have a 2-1 deficit to deal with as a result, and a looming Game 4 tonight that's "close" to a must-win situation, in the estimation of Sidney Crosby.

The Senators are good enough that the Penguins might be in the same predicament had they played as well as they're capable of through the first three games.

But, to a man, the Penguins maintain they haven't come close to doing so.

Yesterday was about correcting problems rather than identifying them.

Only seven Penguins players skated, but everyone attended an afternoon meeting that Therrien hopes will benefit some more than others.

"We show the game, and we break down the game, and we break down the periods," Therrien said of the routine. "That's part of the process that we have with that young club."

Evgeni Malkin, who has yet to score his first playoff goal, is one player Therrien has identified as being capable of producing more than he's shown.

But Malkin isn't alone.

His company includes:

• Sergei Gonchar: The bar is set higher for Gonchar than most because of his talent level and because of the way he emerged this season as the Penguins' best two-way defenseman. He has yet to reach it in this series. He also has yet to record an even-strength point.

• Mark Eaton: He blocked eight shots in Game 1, including two in succession while prone in the crease, but his game hasn't been the same since.

• Ryan Malone: Therrien went with Jarkko Ruutu in Malone's spot on a line with Malkin and Mark Recchi briefly at the outset of Game 3, perhaps in an effort to inspire Malone. He kills penalties with passion but ranks a team-worst minus-4 against Ottawa and has yet to register a point. Malone has battled inconsistency in his game before and bounced back to repay the Pens for their continued faith in him. Now would be a good time to do so again.

• Recchi: His effort is never questioned, but he's coming up empty as far as scoring goals is concerned. Recchi was snake-bitten in the stretch run, too. The Pens need him to bite back as well as provide leadership.

• The fourth line: Ruutu, Erik Christensen and either Ronald Petrovicky or Georges Laraque have all but disappeared. Ottawa's fourth line is thriving. The Pens' fourth line, no matter its configuration, has lost Therrien's trust.

"I don't think it's a matter of work ethic," Therrien said of the Penguins' struggles in this series. "I don't think it's a matter of will."

Nor is it a matter of merely breaking the glass and reuniting Crosby and Malkin in the event of an emergency such as the one the Pens are suddenly confronting.

Get the picture?

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