Johnston wants Downie to cut down on minor penalties

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Penguins coach Mike Johnston said in October that he doesn’t mind if the team has to kill off the “odd penalty” as a trade-off for forward Steve Downie’s physical play. Downie has been taking more than just the odd penalty though.

He has a league-leading 79 penalty minutes and 17 minors in just 19 contests.

“We talked about that last week,” Johnston told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We talked to [Downie] about cutting down in that area, for sure. Especially the minor penalties.

“If you’re engaging — if there’s a fight or something like that — that’s different. But the minor penalties, we’ve got to cut down.”

Penalties have been an issue for the Penguins in general this season, Downie is simply the one leading the charge. Pittsburgh has averaged an NHL-high 14.9 PIM per contest, including 91 minors. The Penguins do have the league’s fourth-best penalty kill (87.5%) and that’s kept the situation from being far more serious, but this is still an area of potential concern.

If they start to struggle when it comes to killing penalties before they find a way to play a more disciplined game, then this could become a much bigger problem. They’ll play against the Boston Bruins tonight on NBCSN (7:00 p.m. ET).