Penguins continue search for scoring vs. Coyotes
PITTSBURGH -- Home is looking pretty cozy for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are coming off a 1-3-1 road trip but return to PPG Paints Arena for a game Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes with a four-game home winning streak intact.
That trend, the site of the game and a struggling opponent -- Arizona is 2-12-2 and will be playing a second straight night after a 3-2 overtime loss Monday at Washington -- might not matter, however, if the Penguins (8-6-2) can't score more.
They are averaging 2.63 goals per game after leading the NHL last season with 3.39 per game. Sidney Crosby has no goals in the past eight games, and fellow offensive star Phil Kessel has a six-game goal drought.
What's more, Pittsburgh is relying more than it would like on its power play, which before Monday's games was tied for second in the league at a 28.8 percent proficiency. Seventeen of the Penguins' 42 goals have come with the man advantage.
"You see the guys we have in this (locker) room," Penguins winger Jake Guentzel said. "It's tough right now. We've just got to stick with it. We're getting our chances."
That is enough to reassure coach Mike Sullivan.
"I strongly believe if we continue to generate not only the amount of chances that we've generated in the last three games, but the quality of chances that we've generated, that I'm fairly confident that this team is going to find the back of the net," Sullivan said.
"We've grown accustomed to this team scoring goals because we have a lot of elite players, and they're talented guys. In my tenure here, this has been our first challenge in this regard. But it's nothing that we're not capable of overcoming."
The Penguins haven't had the challenge that Arizona and first-year coach Rick Tocchet have, producing just five points in 16 games.
"We've had some games where we've been great at times and others where we've been horrible at times," Coyotes center Brad Richardson told the Arizona Republic.
The schedule hasn't helped, Tocchet told Arizonasports.com.
"We're a young team. We need practice time and we're not getting it," he said. "That's not an excuse, but that's reality, and we're going to have to think of other ways as coaches to get these guys to understand the importance of how hard it is to win."
One young player who seems to get it is rookie center Clayton Keller, who leads the Coyotes with 11 goals and 17 points. He would rank first in both categories for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, who could get defensemen Justin Schultz and Matt Hunwick back from concussions after both practiced Monday, are 4-1-1 in their past six games against the Coyotes. Pittsburgh has won three in row against Arizona at home and has blanked the Coyotes for a streak of 121:51 at home, including two straight shutouts.
The Tuesday game marks Tocchet's return to Pittsburgh, where he won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons as an assistant and also won one there as a player in 1992.
"He's a great guy, a great coach," said Kessel, who developed a close relationship with Tocchet. "I was real happy he got a head job.
"Obviously, their season hasn't started off the way they wanted it to, but they're young and they're going to improve."
Updated November 7, 2017