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Sidney Crosby back at practice, lines for regular season opener in focus

Bryan Rust to LTIR

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Media Day Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The good news: for the first time since leaving the game with a minor ding on Saturday after being hit with a shot, Sidney Crosby was back on the ice with teammates on Tuesday.

The bad news: the defensive pairings have changed, and not for the better.

With Bryan Rust’s placement on long-term injury reserve secure, the forward lines get a jolt. For the first time all training camp Patric Hornqvist is up with Crosby, on a familiar and previously very successful line last truly seen in the 2018 playoffs along with Jake Guentzel.

The Evgeni Malkin line is, woof. Juuso Riikola is in pure placeholder mode for the injured Alex Galchenyuk — who was absent again. Brandon Tanev peels off Crosby’s line and back to Malkin’s.

The search to find a spot for Dominik Kahun now shifts to the third line, and a familiar fourth line shapes up as expected.

But then the defense. Whoa, the defense.

For the first time all training camp the Marcus Pettersson - Justin Schultz pair has been split up. Schultz has had a great camp.

“He’s had a hell of a camp,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said on the team official website.

Gee, I wonder why he looked bad earlier and now looks better?

Well the team is going to learn the lesson the hard way if they stick with current pairings that have anchors with Pettersson and Schultz.

Speaking of Jack Johnson, now that a reported 48 hour deadline has come and gone, GM Jim Rutherford pushed back (to steal a favorite phrase) on reports Johnson’s trade was imminent on local radio. Rutherford defiantly said this was never the case and Johnson will be on the team as the season starts.

Rutherford also publicly said he wasn’t going to be able to trade Phil Kessel a couple weeks week before he traded Phil Kessel, so take his words at whatever value you want. Multiple reporters, local and national have cited the Pens’ desire to shop and trade Johnson, so while it obviously hasn’t happened it’s probably not from a lack of effort on Pittsburgh’s part.

There’s also the fact the team is breaking camp with nine healthy defenseman, which is quite unusual and sure looks like a signal that the departure of a defenseman via trade could be somewhere in the works.

But those efforts haven’t resulted in a trade and now Johnson is taking part in the Pens’ top six where he’s likely to cost the teams chances and goals against at alarming rates, adding up to the worst of all worlds if all remains. Hopefully it won’t for much longer.