Penguins hope losing trend ends vs. struggling teams
Perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins should avoid looking at the standings going into home their game Friday against the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena.
Otherwise, the Penguins (27-17-6), who are in contention for the Metropolitan Division title and yet not securely above the playoff cutoff, might notice that the Senators (19-26-5) are in last place in the Atlantic Division.
Pittsburgh is 1-7-1 against clubs that are last in their division, not exactly a point of pride. The most recent addition to the losses in that equation came Monday, when the Penguins fell 6-3 at home against New Jersey.
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said that prompted a players-only meeting Tuesday, and the result was a 4-2 win Wednesday against Tampa Bay, the top team in the league.
"We had a good meeting (Tuesday). We needed a response," Letang said. "All of our guys came out to play. We all showed up, and we were really invested right from the get-go.
"On a normal loss, I don't think we have a meeting, but on a loss that important against a team that is lower in the standings -- we all know in the Metro it's going to be tough to get in the playoffs -- we needed an answer."
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan saw, and heard, some familiar signs Wednesday that his team was on top of its game.
"I know, from being around our players as long as I have, that when we have some personality on our bench, then we usually bring it to the ice. We had it (Wednesday)," Sullivan said. "There was some chatter on the bench. There was a little bit of swagger that I think is important for this group of players."
Whether that will carry over to Friday against another last-place team, or whether the Penguins might again play to the level of an opponent, remains to be seen.
"Our challenge moving forward is to make sure we bring some consistency to our game night in and night out," Sullivan said. "It doesn't matter who our opponent is. We should find a motivation for urgency and enthusiasm just with the opportunity that's in front of us."
Ottawa will be playing its first game since Jan. 22 after the All-Star break last weekend and its bye week.
The Senators lost their last two games before the break, both 3-2 results against the St. Louis Blues and Arizona Coyotes, but before those one-goal defeats won four of five.
"We were playing some good hockey, so we'll try to get back at it right away in Pittsburgh," Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau told TSN 1200.
"When I look around the room, everybody is taking pride playing for the Sens, and everybody wants to end on a good note. I expect a push from our team."
Ottawa expects center Colin White back from a shoulder injury. He missed five games before the break.
"All the pieces are going to be back," Pageau said. "The players are never 100 percent through the year, but everybody's going to be in top shape after the little break. Everybody will be rested up, and I think everybody is motivated to finish strong."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 31, 2019