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Penguins try to shed scars before facing Red Wings

Mar 25, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Rickard Rakell (67) skates against the New York Rangers during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After getting thoroughly outclassed by the New York Rangers on Friday, the Pittsburgh Penguins carried the sting through their Saturday workout and hope to flush it before they host the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

The 5-1 loss left a mark in part because it carried important points in the Metropolitan Division, and in part because it could well serve as a preview of a first-round playoff matchup.

The Penguins were still talking about that game Saturday after a short, workmanlike practice that started late because meetings and video sessions ran long following the no-show in New York.

“I’m stating the obvious when I say we didn’t have our best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think our players are well aware of that. I think it’s important that we learn from the experience. That was a hard one. There needs to be some takeaways”

A little more than 12 hours earlier, Sullivan had snapped and said that, “We got outplayed in every facet of the game. We got outcoached in every facet of the game. There’s no excuses for it.”

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, clearly agitated, warned that his team has “got to make sure that we don’t have an effort like that for the rest of the year. That’s something that we just can’t accept.”

Pittsburgh played that game without center Evgeni Malkin, a late scratch because of a non-COVID illness. Malkin did not practice Saturday. His status for Sunday, Sullivan said, will be determined by how he feels, prompting the team to issue an emergency recall for Kasper Bjorkqvist from the AHL as insurance.

Detroit has been dealing with a longer list of injured players, including goaltender Thomas Greiss, who is out this weekend because of an upper-body issue, and defenseman Marc Staal, who is questionable because of an undisclosed injury.

“We’re a bit short-handed,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said.

Since a six-game losing streak (0-5-1) earlier this month, the Red Wings are 2-2-1, including Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Five games below .500 and the playoffs barely a mathematical possibility, the Red Wings have been taking a look at a slew of young players.

Leading the way are rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, and the group also includes Michael Rasmussen, Joe Veleno, Filip Zadina, Givani Smith, Olli Juolevi, Taro Hirose and Chase Pearson.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are trying to prove they can help this team and this organization start winning on a more regular basis,” Blashill said. “Through the early part of the year, we hovered around .500 and kept ourselves in the mix. And then we’ve fallen off that.

“So now you’ve got … some young guys needed in more prime roles. So, are you going to help us win, or are you just going to go out and play? There’s a huge difference.”

Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin agreed.

“We’re young, so we have to learn,” he said, “and now is the time to learn so (a tough season) doesn’t happen next year.”

–Field Level Media