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Wednesday

Penguins maintaining routines ahead of possible Cup clincher

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins won their three previous Stanley Cups away from home, but have a chance to finally celebrate in their own rink Thursday night in Game 5. 

Up 3-1 in their series against the San Jose Sharks, and with an extra rest day in between games, you can excuse some of the Penguins if they can’t help but take a moment to briefly think about how their Thursday night could end.

“You’re human. You’ve got to think about it,” said defenseman Brian Dumolin. “Mentally, you can’t already have that in your head that it’s a guarantee. We have nothing guaranteed. We’ve got to keep working and playing our best hockey and we’ve got to get better throughout this series like we’ve done in the last one.”

The key, according to fellow blue liner Ian Cole, is to keep a normal routine and treat Thursday just like any other game day.

“It’s potentially the last Stanley Cup Final game we’re going to play,” he said. “It’s obviously a huge game for us, the biggest game of the year. You try to kind of put it off, live in the moment. I don’t think you can try to think about that right now. You’ve got to try to go about eating healthy, getting a good night’s sleep, come back to the rink, have a good pre-game skate, have a good nap and then you can start really dialing it up.”

Five current Penguins – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury -- were on their roster for their Game 7 win in 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings. Add Matt Cullen and his 2006 Cup conquest with the Carolina Hurricanes and you have six total players who have rings in that dressing room. That’s a lot of veterans to have around to settle down some of those newbies who may get caught doing a little too much dreaming ahead of Game 5.

“We've got some guys in there that have this in perspective, that have been through similar experiences in the past,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “I think our guys are very grounded. They understand the challenge in front of us. We just have to focus on that one game, and we've got to bring our very best for that one game.  That's all that we can control.

“We have to try to do our best to ignore some of the noise surrounding the group. I think our players are well aware of it. They've been through it the whole post-season. We've been through it a number of elimination games already. They've handled themselves the right way.”

Watching the Penguins practice on Wednesday you wouldn’t think they could be celebrating a title in 36 hours time. There were plenty of drills and plenty of teaching going on as Sullivan and his staff continue to stress the need for improvement.

“I don't think you ever arrive. We can always get better and improve,” he said. “I think it's that insatiable appetite to improve and get better that has allowed this team to get to the point where it's at. We're going to keep pushing until we achieve our ultimate goal.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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