Pittsburgh Penguins: 5 Ways They Can Return to Greatness in 2011-12

Melissa Bauer-Herzog@mbauerherzogCorrespondent IJune 14, 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins: 5 Ways They Can Return to Greatness in 2011-12

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    TAMPA, FL - APRIL 18: Maxime Talbot #25 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates a goal with teammates against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the St. Pete Times Forum
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the most talented teams in the league right now, but unlike the hype that has led them into the playoffs the last two seasons, they haven't made it past the second round in the two years since their last Stanley Cup win.

    While it looks like the team will be back up to full power at the beginning of next season with the return of Evgeni Malkin and possibly Sidney Crosby, what are five other ways the Pens can return to their Cup winning ways in 2011-12?

No. 5: Resign the Top Players

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 23:  Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates onto the ice for the NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center on February 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Sharks defeated the Penguins 3-2 in o
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Players such as Tyler Kennedy (21 goals for 45 points), Pascal Dupuis (17 goals for 37 points), and other top players are on the free agent list for this year.

    Resigning the top players is a step in the right direction towards the Cup Final instead of bringing in a totally new lineup of players for next season.

No. 4: Sign a Few Select Outside Players

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29:  Erik Cole #26 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    There are some nice, big time players on the free agent list this year.

    While the Pens should resign their big players, they should also find a select few outsiders (such as the Hurricanes Erik Cole if they can steal him away from his team, especially) that fit their plan to find some new player chemistry, especially on Sidney Crosby's line.

No. 3: Learn How to Carry Regular Season Momentum into the Playoffs

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 27:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a glove save against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Penguins won eight of their last 10 games during the regular season, looking like they could be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. However, they were eliminated in the first round, losing the series by a combined 14 points in seven games.

    The Penguins need to find a way to keep their confidence up in the playoffs to propel them through the rounds.

No. 2: Stay Healthy

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Evgeni Malkin #71 and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins line up for a face-off against the Atlanta Thrashers at Consol Energy Center on December 28, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Thr
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    While this isn't something that can be overly controlled by the team, just keeping the whole team healthy could be the difference between winning or losing the Cup.

    At one point, half the team on the bench looked to be the Penguins' AHL team. Keeping their regular NHL players healthy and on the bench all season could make the difference between winning and losing the Cup.

No. 1: Stay out of the Box

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    NEW YORK - MARCH 04:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins sits in the penalty box against the New York Rangersl on March 4, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Penguins had a total regular season PIM of 1388, ranking them as the second highest team in the league, with only the New York Islanders having more (1515 minutes).

    While they do have the highest penalty kill percentage in the league with an 86.1 percent kill rate, it is so much easier to just stay out of the box.

    This may even be the most important step in a Cup run since they can usually control it while playing. Just taking more steps to be careful can keep them from being at a one or even two man disadvantage on the ice.