After a well-deserved day off on Sunday, the Penguins were back at it at their practice facility in Cranberry on Monday to start to prepare for the beginning of their playoff series against the New York Islanders.
The talk of practice was the involvement of Brian Dumoulin, participating in a normal jersey.
Welcome back Dumo! -DP pic.twitter.com/BJEk922Jkr— AT&T SportsNet™ PIT (@ATTSportsNetPIT) April 8, 2019
Dumoulin has been out since March 31st, he missed the final three regular season games of the season.
Forward Zach Aston-Reese, who has been out since March 10th, was also back with the team in a normal jersey for the first time.
These returns would put the Pens at very close to full health for the start of the playoffs, with only reserve defenseman Chad Ruhwedel still injured and not with the team on the ice for practices.
There was also an interesting look with the forwards -
Interesting split among forward jersey colors ...— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) April 8, 2019
Black: Crosby, Guentzel, Rust, McCann, Malkin, Hornqvist
Gold: Bjugstad, Kessel, Simon, Cullen, Blueger, Wilson and ZAR
This could mean any one of Jared McCann, Bryan Rust or Patric Hornqvist to join Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the top line. And the other two wingers would be with Evgeni Malkin, at least if they move forward with the lines as suggested here.
That allows Phil Kessel to be on a “third” line, away from Malkin for the first time in quite a long time when both have been healthy. I would think Dominik Simon would be the LW and Nick Bjugstad would center them to create a balanced unit.
That leaves a fourth line of Matt Cullen to play with two of Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger and Garrett Wilson.
The good thing now is coach Mike Sullivan should have a lot of options. It’s probably likely many RW’s will shuffle in with Guentzel-Crosby for this playoff as they chase the hot hand to stick with the top offensive line. The split (for now at at least) of Malkin and Kessel is a very interesting development that opens up a lot of possibilities.
The Pens will practice again before departing the New York tomorrow. The Stanley Cup playoffs start for them on Wednesday night.
To dream the impossible dream, that Jack Johnson is a place-holder for Dumoulin and potentially a healthy scratch for Game 1. Could it be?
Seems to look promising to start working Olli Maatta + Justin Schultz and keep the pair that’s been doing OK in Marcus Pettersson and Erik Gudbranson together.