If the Pittsburgh Penguins are to avoid the end of their hockey season Friday night they need to think small. The big picture is just too scary.
"I think you look at it when you have to beat the Boston Bruins four times in a row, in four elimination games to move on, that's not something you really want to put your brain around," Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said after his team went through a relaxed, up-beat game-day skate at the TD Garden Center.
So instead of contemplating the enormity of their task or the fact they are down 3-0 in the NHL's Eastern Conference final to a team that is ruthlessly efficient at shutting down their celebrated offence, the Penguins say they are narrowing their focus to Friday night only. Win that game and they get another life.
"We have to take care of tonight," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We know that we don't go any further unless we win tonight. Just focus on the present, not think about it as a whole, think more short term."
And the actual thinking remains the same: Even though the Bruins have shut down their power play completely in the series (0-for-12) and even though the Bruins have held them to two goals in three games, the Penguins still believe they are getting enough scoring chances to win. They just need to keep playing the same way, getting the puck deep, cycling it around the boards until they get a chance in front of the net and eventually some of those shots will get behind Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
"I don't think we felt the need to change anything," said Crosby, who had 15 points in 10 playoff games coming into this series but is still looking for his first point against the Bruins. "Sometimes that's the way it goes. You get chances and they don't go in. You've got to trust that they will.
"That's hockey, especially in the playoffs. You're going to play well and sometimes it's not going to go your way. It's about how you respond and believe in your game. You don't get this far without trusting that eventually you will get those bounces and the puck will eventually go in."
Go that end, it appears there will only be two minor changes to the Penguins lineup for Friday's game. Mark Eaton will go back in on defence to play with Kris Letang, the Penguins' Norris Trophy finalist who is having a horrendous series. Letang has become a turnover machine under the Bruins' merciless fore-checking.
Up front, winger Tyler Kennedy comes back after a one-game absence to replace Joe Vitale on the fourth line with centre Craig Adams and left winger Brendan Morrow. Vitale was dressed in the last two games because of his prowess on faceoffs, which the Bruins dominated until Game 3 but now they are more in need of scoring so Kennedy is back.
Here are the Penguins lines:
Chris Kunitz-Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal
Beau Bennett-Brandon Sutter-Jarome Iginla