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Tangradi to play on Evgeni Malkin & James Neal line

Evgeni Malkin has returned to America- a picture of him going through the Pittsburgh airport hit twitter yesterday (gotta love the internet, eh?). Malkin is expected to join the Penguins on the ice today for practice. With Sidney Crosby getting his normal wingers of Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, this obvioucly is going to split up the Kunitz-Malkin-James Neal line that was the best offensive line in the league last season.

What Malkin will find as the third member of his line will not be a total new face, though. Eric Tangradi, he of 1,000 chances, will get yet another as he'll be the first forward to get a crack at playing with the Malkin/Neal juggenaut. And, believe it or not, Tangradi actually has some experience and success playing a limited amount with Malkin.

Tangradi and Mr. Hilary Duff (aka Mike Comrie) were Malkin's linemates all throughout training camp of 2010, and the trio played pretty well together in practices and pre-season games. It didn't last long, but there is that history to draw off of, especially for Tangradi.

You don't really worry about having two guys who combined for 90 goals like Malkin and Neal did last season, and how they fit into the third member of the line. However, Tangradi could present some benefits for them. He's got the size to battle in front of the net, which could draw attention and open up more ice for Malkin and Neal to operate.

Tangradi's AHL stats this season aren't that impressive- 18 points (10g, 8a) in 34 games and his NHL career mark of 1 goal, 4 assists in 40 games is even worse. But in a short-season, the Pens only need to find lightning in a bottle. If Tangradi can take up space in front of the net and stay on-sides more often than not, they can let Malkin and Neal worry about the majority of the puck-handling and potentially find a successful combination.