Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Ottawa Senators at CONSOL Energy Center. Citing a concern for his team's energy level to start the game, head coach Dan Bylsma trotted out Brandon Sutter and the rest of whatever constituted the team's third line that day, hoping to start the game on an energetic note.
Sutter, the centerpiece of the blockbuster Carolina trade and the man who replaced former second-overall pick Jordan Staal as the team's third-line center, was flanked by wingers Taylor Pyatt and Tanner Glass.
Whether or not the Penguins are squeezed tight against the salary cap ceiling (and boy are they ever), that's no way to enter a postseason.
The Penguins have a number of problem areas to address. Sidney Crosby lost his regular right-winger, leaving the team down one top-six forward. Marc-Andre Fleury's backup is a rookie. The team has lapsed defensively over the last few weeks as they struggle to find balance and chemistry in what is beginning to resemble a healthy lineup.
All of that pales to the abominable production coming from the team's bottom-six forwards.
While the Pens have traditionally been active at the trade deadline, addressing that need from outside the organization this season is nigh impossible. Pittsburgh's current cap situation alone (just over $500,000 in non-LTIR cap space) is enough to make trading for help along the third line wings another miracle of salary cap navigation.
Combine that with a trade market that currently sees only five teams more than 10 points out of playoff position, as well as the chaos of the post-Olympic roster thaw (teams have just ten days between the post-Olympic roster freeze and the March 5 NHL Trade Deadline to make moves), and adding anything of significance starts to look very much impossible.
So, how do the Penguins hope to shake up bottom six, if at all?
The problems don't lie with Sutter, whose production has been uneven at times. Sutter, for his part, has been a respectable piece of the Penguins lineup. He's a prominent figure on the league's best penalty kill, and his fancy stats reveal what he's really bringing to the team.
- No Penguins skater has a better on-ice save percentage at 5-on-5 play this season: 93.6 percent of even-strength shots taken against the Penguins while Sutter is on the ice don't find the back of the net.
- That looks all the more impressive when considering no Penguins skater not named Craig Adams has started a higher percentage of faceoffs in his defensive zone (59.8 percent for Adams, 56.1 percent for Sutter).
- His shooting percentage (10.1 percent as of Monday afternoon) is sixth-best out of Penguins skaters to have played at least 40 games, and his 20 points are good for 10th place on the team. However, his on-ice shooting percentage, which adds in the shooting percentages of his wingers and defensemen, is a measly 7.00 percent. Suffice to say, he's had less than no help in trying to put the puck in the net.