One really simple reason for Pittsburgh’s struggles

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The panic level is high for the Pittsburgh Penguins right now, but there’s a reason to look on the bright side beyond hoping for improved health.

Simply put, the Penguins’ have experienced ridiculously poor puck luck since things really went off the rails starting on March 14. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jason Mackey did some number-crunching to see that their shooting percentage is a pitiful 4.5 during that span, easily the worst in the league. Their average over the entire season is 8.6, so that’s a huge drop-off when you consider how many pucks go on net each game.

(Sunday’s unsettling loss to the Philadelphia Flyers is one of the best examples; they only managed to score against Steve Mason one time despite firing 47 shots on goal. That’s a shooting percentage of a little more than two.)

Here are Mackey’s tweets on the subject:

Injuries play into this too, of course, as Mackey also points out that the Penguins’ tough run lately:

Some might roll their eyes at this and consider it an exercise in excuse-making.

The more interesting consideration, however, is to imagine how dangerous Pittsburgh could be if the Penguins merely get a fair number of bounces and a decent bill of health in a playoff series … assuming, of course, that they can make it.

The good news health-wise is that Evgeni Malkin looked spry in his Sunday return, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out that Kris Letang may only begin working out on an exercise bike this week, so the health part of that equation seems to be a work in progress.

Still, as much as this Penguins team is struggling, they may be a tougher out than their 3-8-1 record since March 14 may indicate.

Related

Mike Johnston focuses on positives

When they got a bounce

Malkin out day-to-day with ‘slight injury’

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Already dealing with injuries to key defensemen Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff, the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t have Evgeni Malkin in their lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

Malkin, with 70 points in 65 games, was a late scratch to the lineup. It was revealed after the game, which Pittsburgh lost 4-1, that the star forward is day-to-day with what head coach Mike Johnston called a “slight injury.”

“When they were working with him the other day, they found a slight injury. We’re taking it day by day from here,” said Johnston, as per the Penguins’ Twitter account.

“We are just being cautious right now at this time of the year. I don’t expect it to linger,” he added.

The Penguins have won only three times in their last 10 games, and sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 95 points after Wednesday’s result versus the Flyers.

Video: Flyers trounce slumping Penguins on Rivalry Night

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The Philadelphia Flyers aren’t going to the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins are on their way to the post-season, although they have yet to clinch a berth.

On Wednesday, it was the Flyers playing the role of spoiler against their heated Pennsylvania rivals, dropping the Penguins to third in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh.

Minus Evgeni Malkin, a late scratch from the lineup, and with only 17 skaters, the Penguins got off to a good enough start, with Sidney Crosby scoring his 300th career goal early in the first period.

It went downhill from there.

Vincent Lecavalier scored for the first time in 27 games to tie the game late in the first period. Brayden Schenn scored twice, including the winner in the second period and a power play goal 49 seconds into the third period. The Penguins had surrendered the lead and the Flyers had taken control.

With five games remaining in their schedule, there has to be concern for a slumping Pittsburgh team that is also dealing with injuries on the blue line to Kris Letang (concussion) and Christian Ehrhoff (upper-body), and has won only three times in the last 10 games following Wednesday’s result.

Malkin (undisclosed) out versus Flyers, Pens to play with 17 skaters

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will be decidedly undermanned when they take on the Flyers on Rivalry Night, as Evgeni Malkin was a late scratch from the contest due to an undisclosed injury.

Pittsburgh, who came into tonight’s contest without the services of Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff (along with Pascal Dupuis and Olli Maatta, who were previously ruled out for the year), were down to just five defensemen and 13 forwards prior to the Malkin injury, and will now roll with 12 skaters up front.

More, from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:

WATCH LIVE: Sharks at Penguins

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without defenseman Kris Letang when they entertain the San Jose Sharks tonight. Letang suffered a concussion in Saturday’s win over the Arizona Coyotes.

David Perron will return to the Penguins lineup after missing Saturday’s game due to illness.

San Jose enters tonight’s game looking for a third straight win. The Sharks are seven points out of a wild card seed in the Western Conference. Meanwhile the Penguins entered Sunday’s action in the second spot in the Metropolitan Division.

San Jose won the only meeting between the two clubs 2-1 in a shootout on March 9.

Puck drop tonight is at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game on NBCSN, or catch it live online using NBCSports.com’s Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

Letang concussed, Penguins will dress five defensemen

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks desperate for wins, Penguins seek definitive end to slump