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Penguins clean out locker room after 2nd-consecutive season missing the playoffs

The Penguins are off to another early summer vacation, as the team misses the post-season for the second-straight year.

During locker room clear-out Thursday, the reality of unmet expectations started to set in.

“It hurts not to be able to play right now,” said center Lars Eller. “It’s gonna hurt probably most of the summer.”

As players began to reflect on what went wrong, lost leads, an anemic power play and struggles and overtime stuck out.

“When you miss by the margin that we have the last couple years, there’s so many games that you look at and plays and things that you want to redo,” said Sidney Crosby, who is missing the playoffs for only the third time in his career. “It’s a fine line, and unfortunately, we’ve been on the wrong side of it the last couple years.”

It’s a tougher pill to swallow considering the Penguins just played some of their best hockey of the season.

Points in 11 of their last 13 games weren’t enough for the playoffs, but head coach Mike Sullivan feels it’s a sign of better things to come.

“If there’s any silver lining in it, is there was a semblance over the last month of the season that gives us a lot of hope that this group is very capable, and quite honestly, I think we showed that through the course of the season, as well.”

The clock may be ticking on the team’s veteran core, but those around them feel time’s not up just yet.

“Everyone will come back with a bit of a chip on their shoulder knowing how good we can be, as you saw this last month or whatever it was,” said winger Bryan Rust. “I think that’s only gonna help us.”

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