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PENGUINS GET A CHANCE TO CONCENTRATE ON PRACTICE

Monday, 10.17.2005 / 12:00 AM / Pittsburgh Penguins
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PENGUINS GET A CHANCE TO CONCENTRATE ON PRACTICE

After playing six games in 11 days, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally got a break on Sunday.

For the first three days of the week, though, they will work hard to capture their first win of the season when New Jersey invades Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s nice to get a few days to get a few practices in and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Penguins captain Mario Lemieux said Monday.

The season’s first two weeks went by in a blur for the Penguins. Even though they went winless in their initial six games, they did earn four points in the standings with four overtime defeats.

“It’s hard. The expectations are a lot higher this year. Some of the moves we made this summer, we were expecting a great start,” Lemieux said. “But, if you look at it, we lost four games in overtime, so it could be a different story. That’s all in the past and we have to regroup this week since we have a few days to do that and go back to work.”

The Penguins (0-2-4) are tied with the Islanders and Devils for third place in the Atlantic Division with four points. They are only four points behind the first-place Rangers, who have eight points.

“We just have four points, but if you look at the standings, we’re not that far back,” Lemieux said. “We just have to start winning some games and get the confidence back. It’s a long season, so we’d rather have a low spot early in the season rather than late in the season.”

“We can’t dwell on it. That’s the way it is,” rookie Sidney Crosby said. “We have to look at the positive – we have four points. I think the most important thing is that we probably played our best game overall last game. So, obviously, we’re improving.”

The last time the Penguins were on the ice, they dropped a 3-1 home decision to Tampa Bay on Saturday.

“I think of all the games, the last one was our best one,” Crosby said. “It was just unfortunate we were in the [penalty] box for the whole second period. That’s basically the reason we couldn’t come out with the win there.”

With an influx of new names on their roster, the Penguins are getting more comfortable playing together each game.

“When you make changes like that, it takes a little while to get used to each other playing together in different situations,” Lemieux said. “Everybody is getting off to a slow start, but we have confidence that we will turn it around with the talent that we have.”

Veteran forward Mark Recchi believes the team will come together soon.

“There’s always going to be that process of learning to play together. It’s time to get moving forward here. We have an opportunity to get going here,” he said. “We know we have a lot of work to do and we have a lot of things we have to get better at. Number 1, just concentrating on making sure the puck stays out of our net. Number 2, worry about the other end. We have to be held accountable for each other.”

Crosby believes three days of practice should work wonders for team chemistry and overall play.

“I think so. We can regroup here,” he said. “Not being able to come out with a win has been tough. But, we know we’re right there. I think we’re confident in ourselves after the last game knowing that we played a pretty decent game. We just want to continue that this week and be ready for Thursday.”

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