Downie: ‘I can’t take penalties this time of year’

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Penguins coach Mike Johnston is concerned over Steve Downie’s lack of discipline and has been talking to the 27-year-old forward about it since at least November.

And yet Downie still leads the league in penalty minutes (221) and minors (43). He also has nine misconducts in 2014-15, which is triple the next highest player. That factors in the two 10-minute penalties he received on Sunday, including one for pushing a linesman.

With all that in mind, will Downie change his game at this stage of the season? That’s his goal.

“It’s tough (to be physical but avoid the penalty box), but at the end of the day I can’t take penalties this time of year,” Downie told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Discipline-wise, I haven’t been very good the past two games. But that will change. I will be better now.”

It’s worth adding that Pittsburgh’s penalty troubles don’t start and end with Downie. The Penguins are the second worst team in the league with 304 minor penalties and even if you remove Downie entirely (and assume whoever took his minutes never got into trouble), Pittsburgh would still be in the bottom third of the league. In addition to Downie, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are also in the top-30 when it comes to minor penalties. Fortunately for them, the Penguins also have one of the best penalty kills in the NHL.

Additionally, while Downie hasn’t played in a postseason game since 2011, he was very effective in that run, scoring two goals and 14 points in 17 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning. If he has another strong playoff showing in 2015, then it will be easy for the Penguins to look past his regular season penalty troubles.