Stars on the Kill: Pens Practice Special Teams

Today the Penguins held a practice focusing on their power play and penalty kill.  Head coach Mike Johnston said that today’s focus was to “give the players a little bit of information, like here’s how we want to break out, here’s some looks in the zone.”

“There’s a bit of an evaluation phase there with some of the players we don’t know really well and wanted to see how they worked.”

Johnston also spoke to the media about what he felt to be an equally important aspect of today’s practice: Penalty killing time for power play participants.

“Guys like Geno [Evgeni Malkin] will probably kill early in the season. [Chris] Kunitz, [Patric] Hornqvist… Sid [Crosby] killed last year, but we need some more depth on the penalty kill.”

Stars on the Kill

Indeed, Crosby saw limited action on the penalty kill last season. While it’s not something you expect to see all the time, it’s important for players who play on the power play to get some experience on the PK. Not only will it provide the players with a defensive mindset that can be used to thwart short-handed attempts, but also shares a glimpse into the mind of a penalty killer. This insight might make their power play time more effective.

What a power play if could be.

Crosby commented on his first chance to play with Phil Kessel on the power play

“He’s got a great shot and he uses it well from there. Having a guy like that who can shoot the puck on that side is sure to draw some attention.”


Malkin’s Happiness

Malkin’s happiness in Pittsburgh has been recently questioned, but he seemed excited to have Sergei Gonchar back.

“Oh yeah, that’s my friend and he lives with me. Eight years ago I lived with him now he’s come back to Pittsburgh and lives with me, but it’s so exciting. I hope we get to play together this year.

Gonchar, who is with the team on a PTO contract, may not make the final roster. Still, most Penguins fans have fond memories of the time he has already spent with the team, and with Malkin.

Malkin also seems happy about the team being better equipped to score goals.

“Now with Duper [Pascal Dupuis] back, and adding Phil, we’ve got four great lines – deeper, unbelievable four lines, defensemen and Flower [Marc-Andre Fleury] in net too. It’s a great team and if we work hard, the goals will come.”

Some of that excitement comes from having Sergei Plotnikov on the roster. “He’s big sized and works hard every shift,” Malkin said. “He likes to play around the net and screen the goalie. He’s got good skills, generally everything – skate, shoot, work hard in the corner and go to the net.”

Surrounded by friends on an unquestionably deeper team, Malkin isn’t the only one who should be happy.

Pens fans should be too.