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Another Step Back

Pittsburgh’s 6-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks continues a trend of one step forward, two steps back.

“We’re trying to build some traction here,” coach Mike Sullivan said after the loss. “We’ve played a lot of good hockey over the last three or four weeks. We’re trying to string some wins together and points together and momentum. When you have a night like tonight, it sets you back.”

The lack of fire from the group Wednesday night and some disinterested performances from the likes of Evgeni Malkin is what made Wednesday’s loss feel like such a bad one when also considering the Blackhawks were playing in a back-to-back.

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Common trends have played out all season where the Penguins look more like a middle of the road team than a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

With the Penguins no longer a great forechecking team that hunts the puck at an exceptional level like they did in their two Stanley Cup runs, among the issues without the puck is horrific defensive awareness that is playing out in all three zones and it starts with some group of forwards to the backend.

“I thought we gave up more odd-man rushes tonight than we did in the last three or four weeks,” Sullivan said Wednesday night.

–It’s time to pull back some of media talk proclaiming Marcus Pettersson to be the next Nik Lidstrom like the case was after the Ottawa game.

There’s more of this happening than good moments with the third pairing of Jack Johnson – Pettersson.

— Does Evgeni Malkin miss Carl Hagelin? There’s a reason Malkin liked to play with Hagelin so much and the coaches loved to play Hagelin in that spot despite the lack of offense.

Hagelin made life easier for Malkin in tracking pucks on the forecheck and on the backcheck, two must-haves when picking a linemate for Malkin before he’s not always in all-out mode during the regular season and as great as he is, will take some night’s off.

With Bryan Rust’ hat trick vs the Chicago hopefully jumpstarting his offensive game, Rust moving up to the second line left wing spot has to be in play to give the Malkin line that Hagelin presence.

Malkin has just 1 even strength goal since October 31st.

— One major complaint in Los Angeles about Tanner Pearson that saw them sour on him so much is what we’ve seen with him in Pittsburgh on a game-to-game basis.

Pearson either has an impact game or is completely invisible with no in-between.

That’s been him in a Penguins uniform and why there was some risk in taking on his contract because he’s a sink or swim type performer.

— Industry Buzz is Winnipeg, Colorado, Columbus and Nashville are among handful of teams that have continued to monitor the Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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