An on-going theme of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2015-16 season has been the personnel and play of their defense. The cobbled together unit has mixed and match for most of the season, other than the surprisingly steady pair of Brian Dumoulin and Ben Lovejoy , lone standouts on a rocky blueline.
The practice alignment went:
- Olli Maatta and Kris Letang
- Dumoulin and Lovejoy
- Rob Scuderi and David Warsofsky
- Ian Cole and Adam Clendening
A few interesting items pop out. The first, obviously, is Maatta who took his first practice with contact yesterday and seems on track to return on Saturday, barring any issues that could pop up. Maatta was hurt on November 17th (two and a half weeks ago) and said to be out 3-4 weeks, but again has healed quickly.
The bottom two pairs are eyebrow raising as well. Warsofsky played well in his first game as a Penguin, but will he get in a game above Cole and Clendening? Clendening has certainly been the low-man on the totem pole this season and has been a healthy scratch whenever the rest of the team is healthy, which can't bode well for Cole's chances.
Ian Cole started the year on the top pair but didn't play well. He seemed to find some footing recently playing with Clendening, which would be a perfectly fine 3rd pairing, except for that whole "Pens don't make Scuderi a healthy scratch" thing. We'll see if they buck that trend, or how long they keep 8 healthy defensemen on the NHL roster, a luxury that might not last forever.
Coach Mike Johnston might not have an ideal amount of talent with his defense, but now that he's got health and an extra body, it should make for more decisions regarding how he uses them.