Chris Conner looked down at the ice and shook his head after his one-timer sailed wide of the net.
Granted it was only a drill during practice, but the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton winger wasn’t happy about the miss.
On Conner’s next turn during the same drill, he put a little more emphasis on his one-timer and zipped the puck into the twine.
That was more like it.
After a blistering start that saw Conner post three goals and four points in the first three games before earning a trip up to Pittsburgh, the veteran winger has yet to find the back of the net in the last two games since he returned from the big club.
While a two-game goal drought isn’t long by any means, to Conner it feels like an eternity.
“I’m not satisfied with where my game is at,” said Conner, who has 104 goals as he enters his ninth AHL season.
To erase that dissatisfaction, Conner is not taking any shortcuts this week in practice. He’s bearing down on shots and leading the pack when it comes time to skate laps. And on Tuesday he sat in head coach John Hynes’ office to go over video.
Never mind the fact that it’s only been two games since Conner has scored, he always feels the need to work harder and improve.
“I want to make sure I don’t have any regrets when I look back on things,” Conner said. “I want to be the best at what I do, and I do everything I can to get there.”
Hynes sees Conner’s desire to improve and is more than happy to help his top-six winger get back on track. A lot of it has to do with decisions on the ice, Hynes said, adding that Conner understands what he needs to do different.
Hynes will make some changes on his end as well.
“We’ll put him in better positions to produce offense,” Hynes said.
So while Conner goes through a week’s full of practices ripping shots and skating laps without hesitation, he admits he’s not sure if he’s being too demanding on himself.
It is only two games without a goal, after all.
“I don’t know where the pen is to draw that line,” Conner said. “I’m still learning that. It’s a part of my personality, I guess.”
And that personality is on full display every time Conner hits the practice ice.
“I don’t mind practicing, especially here with the emphasis on game details,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting better and as I’m getting older I know it’s not going to come any easier, so I need to keep that work ethic going.”
• The Penguins sent G Eric Hartzell to Wheeling on Wednesday. The rookie netminder has been out most of the season with an injury and is now healthy enough to play, Hynes said. With veterans Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Peter Mannino playing well for the Penguins, Hynes felt a trip to Wheeling would help Hartzell get some ice time.
“We just want to get him back to practicing every day and having the net to himself,” Hynes said. “He’ll have a lot of work down there and be a starter right away.”
Hynes didn’t rule out a return to Wilkes-Barre for Hartzell and said if he plays well in Wheeling he could join the Penguins’ goalie mix again this season.
• Although Pittsburgh has two injuries among their forwards (Beau Bennett and Chuck Kobasew), no one was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday.
• Wednesday’s practice at Coal Street was closed. Hynes said the move was made to change things up a bit.
“Sometimes it’s nice when you change the dynamic of practice and the atmosphere,” he said. “We focused more on structure and teaching.”