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Pens/Habs Preview: Pittsburgh shuffles lines a bit

New look lines for tonight’s Pens game against the Montreal Canadiens

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins made their first switch of their forward lines in the game against Vegas, and they’ve stuck with them.

Enter Bryan Rust, line fixer. The Sidney Crosby line has been doing just ok; Crosby has no goals but three assists in the first three games- all at even strength. Jake Guentzel has three goals and no assists. Frequent defensive partner to the line Kris Letang has one goal and two assists at even strength in the opening three games.

Patric Hornqvist hasn’t been as productive. Agree a lot with Gretz’s take on this here website about HQ72:

I don’t want to say that Hornqvist has been bad to start the year (because he really hasn’t — he does, after all, have 12 shots on goal through the first three games), but he also hasn’t really been noticeable with just a single point (an assist in the season opener) and a demotion to the third line in the second half of Thursday’s game.

Overall, I’m not too worried about Hornqvist because you know what you’re going to get from him: A balls to the wall effort that is going to infuriate every defensemen and goalie in the league, and 20-25 goals at the end of the year.

The fact he’s still getting pucks on the net is also encouraging. He doesn’t have a particularly good shot, but he’s always been a volume shooter that gets his goals because he throws everything he can at the net and parks himself right on top of the blue paint. Eventually one of those shots will go his way, or he will get a deflection or bang in a rebound, or puck will bounce in off of his butt.

Rust himself has no points in the first three games of the season, but with his speed he should be able to add a little something different to the Crosby line that could seem to use that extra twist.

It’s also interesting to see Jamie Oleksiak rotate down to the healthy scratch role and Olli Maatta get out of the press box for tonight. Makes sense - Juuso Riikola impressed and deserves to be back for another game, but Maatta is a top-4 defenseman on this team. He will be needed and counted on in the future.

And the new pair gave Mike Sullivan a chance to unleash another classic no non-sense line.


Speaking of new lines, tonight’s opponent has some too. Like the Pens, Montreal has only played one game since last Saturday’s game. The Canadiens lost 3-0 to Los Angeles. Other than their big 5-1 win against Pittsburgh, Montreal only has a 0-1-1 record this season. From our friends at Habs EOTP:

Late in the Kings game, Claude Julien changed up his lines, seeking more offence. Tomas Tatar moved into Jonathan Drouin’s position on the Jesperi Kotkaniemi-Joel Armia line, Drouin formed a trio with Matthew Peca and Brendan Gallagher, and Phillip Danault centered Andrew Shaw and Charles Hudon. Only the Paul Byron-Max Domi-Artturi Lehkonen line was left untouched. Peca, who lost goalscorer Michael Amadio on the Kings’ second tally, may be at risk with Tomas Plekanec on the outside eagerly awaiting his first action of the season.

It will be interesting to see how the Pens do and if they’re able to bounce back and get a better effort tonight against a team that ran them out of their on building a week ago, mainly due to them not showing much interest in playing hard.