NHL.com: The NHL’s top-ranked powerhouses are all shifting their tactics to defend the puck.
In fact, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins are both expected to change the way they defend the net in the coming weeks.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have already done so with defenseman Kris Letang’s return and center Jaromir Jagr’s return from injury.
With a new 3-1-1 structure in place, it’s likely the Pittsburgh Penguins will go back to a defensive shell this season.
Pittsburgh’s defensive coach Marc Crawford is confident in his system, but said the Penguins are just trying to find the right way to play and will make changes as necessary.
Crawford said he and the Penguins defensive coach have been working on the defensive game for the last two weeks.
Crawford was asked about Jagr and Letang, but he said the defensive pairing will not be changing anytime soon.
“I think Jaromar will be fine, Kris will be okay, but that’s not going to be changing for a couple weeks, but certainly in the next few weeks, that’s what we’re working on,” Crawford said.
The Penguins are already preparing to play a more physical game, Crawford said, which is a step in the right direction.
“The team is really going to try to push the pace, and if you play a physical game and you try to get that puck up the ice, it’ll take some time to get used to it,” Crawford added.
“But I think the first few weeks we’ll just try to play it a little bit more.
It’ll be fine.”
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said the team has already started experimenting with defensive tactics.
“We’ve been working with the defensive line a little more,” Sullivan said.
“Obviously it’s a big adjustment, but we’ll see where we go from there.”
The Penguins defense has allowed the third most goals this season, but have allowed only three goals in their last two games.
The biggest change in the Penguins defense will be goaltender Cam Ward.
In Ward’s first two games as a Ranger, the Rangers were 4-0-0 and 1-0 in regulation and overtime.
The Rangers have allowed three goals or fewer in their past five games.
In those five games, they have allowed at least one goal three times and had a goal or fewer two times.
Pittsburgh also will be without defenseman Alexei Emelin, who was sidelined for the first four games of the season with an upper-body injury.
“It’s been tough to come back to our old self,” Emelin said.