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Penguins aim for more goals

| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007

The Penguins could take comfort in knowing they were one of only 12 teams to average at least three goals per game as of Friday.

They could, but they should not.

Officially the Penguins have amassed 27 goals over nine games entering tonight's game with Montreal at 7:30 at Mellon Arena.

Take away a goal credited to them for winning a shootout against Carolina on Oct. 19, and the Penguins have averaged only 2.89 goals per game -- and just two over the past four contests.

Considering they averaged 3.38 goals per game last season, third-best in the league, the Penguins' recent offensive struggles could suggest ...

"Nothing really," right wing Petr Sykora said. "Everybody is trying to figure out why we are not scoring goals. I do not think we should panic about it.

"Every team goes through stretches in a season when (it) struggles to score. It could happen through Games 40 and 50 and nobody would mention it because you will have scored a certain amount of goals already.

"I have been through this a thousand times, with everybody trying to figure out why or why not. We have to just continue to play and get chances."

Getting chances has not proven a problem. Capitalizing on them has been a challenge.

The Penguins were among the NHL's top 10 in average shots on goal with 30.1 as of yesterday. However, their shooting percentage, 9.6 percent, ranked toward the middle of the pack, well behind leaders Philadelphia (14.3), Calgary (13.1) and Toronto (12.1).

The Penguins' 14 five-on-five goals rated toward the bottom third of the league. Philadelphia and Ottawa had scored 22 and 20, respectively, through nine games.

Buffalo lost Daniel Briere and Chris Drury during free agency but had totaled 18 five-on-five goals over eight games.

Tough times
Some Penguins players' struggle to score goals dates to last season. Here's a look at the rough stretches experienced by a few of the club's standouts:
Player Position Slump
Mark Recchi RW/LW 3 goals in 32 regular-season games
Jordan Staal C/LW 3 goals in 25 regular-season games
*Evgeni Malkin C/RW 7 goals in 33 regular-season games
Gary Roberts LW 6 goals in 24 regular-season games
Ryan Malone LW/RW 3 goals in 22 regular-season games
* -- Three goals in nine games this season

The Penguins had been outscored by seven goals during five-on-five play.

"We do have to make sure we are more effective five-on-five," captain Sidney Crosby said. "You cannot always depend on your power play and penalty kill."

Crosby said the Penguins need to improve their work around the net to better create traffic in front of opposing goaltenders.

"We need to get a few more dirty goals," Crosby said. "If you look at the goals we do score, a lot of times they are right around the net. That is no fluke. You have to score like that."

A few more goals from their defense corps would also help.

The Penguins have received only four goals from their defensemen -- two each by Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar. Ten teams had bested that total, including Columbus (five), Calgary (six), Montreal (seven) and Toronto (10).

Gonchar said the Penguins' defensemen by design are not "jumping up" to help the forwards in the offensive zone.

"We understand that defense comes first, and that is why we are not jumping up as much," Gonchar said. "Every mistake you make the other team is going to capitalize on it.

"We have such a great offense. The goals are going to come. I have confidence in our forwards. They are going to score without our help."

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