Penguins

Game 21 Preview: Ducks Vs. Penguins

By: Casey Shea
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will play host to the Anaheim Ducks tonight at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Penguins have been in a funk for much of the month of November, which has seen them fall out of first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Penguins have lost four of their last five games. In each of the losses, the Penguins only scored one goal.

Pittsburgh snapped a three-game losing streak on Friday night with a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators. During that three-game skid, the Penguins failed to score an even strength goal. All three goals in that span came on the power play.

Against the Devils on Saturday, the lone Penguins goal came after a blunder by Marek Zidlicky at the Pittsburgh blue line. Zidlicky failed to keep a puck in and was caught flat-footed as Chris Kunitz raced around him and scored on a breakaway.

The Penguins fired 28 shots at Martin Brodeur, but this was far from a case of a goalie stealing two points. Brodeur was good when he needed to be, but was truly tested only a handful of times at best.

Sure, it was the second game of a back-to-back situation for the Penguins, but it was more of the same. The Penguins controlled much of the first half of the first period. Then, a weird bounce with time winding down gave the Devils a 1-0 lead and the Pens never seemed to recover.

They got away from what had been working and played right into the Devils’ hands. Early in the game, the Penguins were effectively dumping the puck in and getting bodies to the net. That slowly deteriorated as the game went on.

When the Penguins have gotten into trouble this season, they get pass happy and try to make east-west plays through the neutral zone. They also try and get creative during entries into the offensive zone, which get broken up more often than not.

Teams around the league have apparently taken notice and are clogging it up. As a result, they force the Penguins into committing turnovers.

Pucks need to get deep and the forwards need to be hitting the blue line with speed in order to have a chance at retrieving the puck.

Once they gain possession, bodies need to get to the net. This has been a broken record problem for the Penguins in recent playoff struggles as well.

You’re not going to score many goals if the opposing goaltender can see the puck or if you don’t make him pay for giving up rebounds.

As for tonight’s game, the Ducks will offer up a big test for the Penguins.

Anaheim (15-5-2) currently leads the Pacific Division with 32 points.

Tonight’s game will wrap up a four-game road trip for the Ducks, who have gone 0-2-1 so far.

Corey Perry (12 goals, 11 assists) and Ryan Getzlaf (10 goals, 13 assists) lead the team with 23 points. Perry’s 12 goals also lead the team.

The Ducks would probably like to see their goaltending numbers be a little better too.

Jonas Hiller is 7-3-1 with a 2.69 GAA and a .898 save percentage, while Viktor Fasth is 2-1-1 with a 2.94 GAA and .885 save percentage.

However, the Ducks have had no problems filling the net at the other end having scored 71 goals in 22 games. Only the Blackhawks (78), Coyotes (73) and Sharks (72) have lit the lamp more this season.

For Pittsburgh, tonight’s game begins a big test of a week. Later this week, the Penguins will play the Capitals, Islanders and Canadiens.

Sidney Crosby continues to lead the way with 25 points, (nine goals, 16 assists).

While Evgeni Malkin is mired in a 13-game goalless drought, he has risen to second on the team with 18 points (three goals, 15 assists).

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury (11-6-0, 2.06 GAA, .918 save percentage) has only allowed more than two goals twice in his last eight starts.

Against the Ducks, Fleury is 4-2-0 with a 2.52 GAA and a .898 save percentage.

The puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. and you can watch the game locally on Root Sports.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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