Penguins hope Blackhawks are their road elixir

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 2:43 AM

Winning away from home remains a struggle for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh will try to reverse that trend and end a five-game road losing streak when it visits the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

The Penguins are hoping to split a back-to-back after suffering a 5-2 home loss to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Wherever they roam, the Penguins haven’t clicked on the man advantage.

Pittsburgh went 0-for-4 on the power play against Florida, generating just one shot on the first two opportunities. The Penguins are 8-for-57 on the power play since the start of 2024.

Rickard Rakell’s would-be power-play goal early in the second period was overturned after Florida’s replay challenge determined the Penguins played the puck with a high stick.

“Looking at our team, what players we have, it shouldn’t be like this,” Rakell said. “But, we put ourselves in this position. And we’re going to work ourselves out.”

Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel left the game in the third period. Coach Mike Sullivan said Guentzel is being evaluated for an upper-body injury.

Guentzel appeared to tally the Penguins’ first goal after the hosts surrendered the first four. However, the goal later was credited to Bryan Rust. Penguins defenseman John Ludvig scored his first career goal later in the game, but it wasn’t enough as Pittsburgh lost its third game in a row.

The Penguins have scored three or fewer goals in 11 straight contests.

Loser of seven straight, Chicago has plummeted to the worst record in the NHL since winning 4-2 at Pittsburgh in its season opener on Oct. 10.

Opponents have outscored the Blackhawks 22-8 during their current skid, the club’s fifth of at least four games this season.

While rookie leading scorer Connor Bedard has skated in a non-contact jersey in practice as he prepares for a return from a fractured jaw, Chicago needs more punch in the meantime. In their latest loss, 4-2 to the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, the Blackhawks didn’t register a shot on goal until the final minute of the first period.

“It’s embarrassing,” said defenseman Seth Jones, who registered the feat at 19:29. “It’s embarrassing you can’t get one puck to the net. I don’t know if we need to shoot it quicker or need to have a shot mentality a little bit more and stop being so cute in the offensive zone.”

Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson called the game “definitely a step backward” from previous efforts in which the club battled despite injuries to multiple players.

One player Chicago hoped would provide scoring depth, former first-round pick Lukas Reichel, was moved off the team’s line rushes at Wednesday’s practice after shuttling between the third and fourth lines of late. Reichel had an assist in the Vancouver game.

“We realize when players are down on themselves and we don’t want to pile on, but it’s the NHL,” Richardson said. “We have to somehow push them to get over that, and a lot of that’s internally with the player. But there’s only so much we can do.”

–Field Level Media