It's great to see you, Derick! pic.twitter.com/3I7evukkr6— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 9, 2018
Brassard was starting to fit in with the Pens before injuring his groin during a game against Detroit on March 27th. Prior to that game, the center was on a six game point streak (2g+4a) and really finding his way with the club that acquired him in February from Ottawa.
This return is great news for the Penguins who are at virtually full strength entering the playoffs. The only injury (Carter Rowney, wrist, still not practicing) is a completely replaceable one that Zach Aston-Reese will fill in for on the 4th line, and probably be a better player in all regards.
From the other side of the commonwealth the Flyers had a practice of their own this morning
No changes to Flyers lines at first practice of postseason— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) April 9, 2018
Leier, Weise, Weal the scratches
What stands out is that Travis Konecny has remained away from the Giroux-Couturier line that has been very effective over the second half of the season. That trio has played almost 500 minutes together this season and has a Corsi percent near 55% (elite!) and has been on-ice for 33 Goals For to 19 Goals against, per Natural Stat Trick. They were recently broken apart and appear to be separate entering Game 1.
By bumping Konecny to the third line, the Flyers move their 4th highest scoring forward (24g+23a) to balance the skill of the top three lines. This move is very familiar to a Pittsburgh-esque way to spread the scoring around - as we have successfully seen Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all on different lines for the majority of the last two playoffs. Switch Raffl and Konecny above and the 3rd line becomes Wayne Simmonds and not much else. Now there are two real scoring threats for Philly on all three of their top lines.
The hope for Pittsburgh would have to be some of the supporting players (chiefly Michael Raffl and Valterri Filppula) don’t hold up their end of the bargain and weaken the ability of players like Giroux, Konency and Simmonds to be effective and generate goals at even strength. If so, the lines will surely get shuffled and more stacked with skill, but by that point hopefully Philly will be behind by multiple goals (or games!) in the series.
So the placement of what line Travis Konecny is on will be an interesting one to monitor as a sub-plot of the Pittsburgh/Philly series. As of now, when both 3rd lines are on the ice it could be fairly even but very critical in the course of how the series will play out. For the Pens, that starts with a healthy Brassard and apparently a healthy Brassard we shall see on Wednesday night for Game 1.