Sidney Crosby says experience is not always a great teacher when it comes to climbing out of holes in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With the Pittsburgh Penguins down 3-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers in their first-round NHL series, Crosby said he and his teammates are not drawing on what they learned three years ago in the Stanley Cup final. The circumstances in which the Penguins saw the Detroit Red Wings take a 2-0 series lead before they came back to win the Cup were different than today's predicament, Crosby said after the Penguins' game-day skate Friday at the Consol Energy Center a few hours before Game 5.
"I think it helps just from the fact of the experience of being down," Crosby said. "It's a different situation [now]
"In that situation, we played pretty good games and didn't make a lot of mistakes. In this situation, we didn't feel our game was where we needed it to be. We need to improve it more."
What needs the most improvement is the Penguins' defensive game. While neither the Flyers nor the Penguins are playing textbook hockey in this high-scoring series, the Penguins' defence was struggling the most before they avoided elimination Wednesday with a 10-3 romp.
The Penguins will have to try and contain the Flyers again without defenceman Paul Martin. He will miss his second consecutive game in the series with an undisclosed injury after getting run over by Flyers rookie Brayden Schenn in Game 3. Penguins forward Arron Asham earned a four-game suspension when he attacked Schenn in retaliation for the hit on Martin.
On the plus side, the Penguins will get high-scoring winger James Neal back in the lineup after he served a one-game suspension for his part in the foolishness that broke out in Game 3. He was back on his line with centre Evgeni Malkin and left winger Chris Kunitz at the morning skate.
Ilya Bryzgalov will get his chance to redeem himself for the Philadelphia Flyers, but it still isn't known if forward James van Riemsdyk will come back Friday from a broken bone in his foot. When van Riemsdyk took part in practice on Thursday, speculation mounted that he would play for the first time since Mar. 1, but he was not on the ice Friday for the Flyers' optional game-day skate and head coach Peter Laviolette refused to comment on his status.
Also out for the Flyers is defenceman Nicklas Grossman, whose injury was not disclosed but is suspected of having a concussion.
Bryzgalov was the first goalie off the ice Friday, taking a brief twirl around the ice before heading to the dressing room. At least one report said his foot injury, which Bryzgalov has been playing with since late March, might keep him out of Game 5 but indications are that he will start. Bryzgalov was shelled for five goals in 18 shots in the Flyers' 10-3 loss.
Even without Martin, the Penguins' defence, and most importantly goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, appear to be on the rebound. Fleury seems to have rediscovered his regular-season form, which would be trouble for the Flyers.
Crosby, though, played down any feelings of undue confidence on his team.
"No," he said. "It feels like our last game-day. We're in the same situation. We've got to be desperate and find a way to win."
Here are the Penguins' lines at their morning skate:
Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal
Steve Sullivan-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi-Craig Adams-Richard Park