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Trending Penguins Players: More measuring stick games and a brutal schedule

This is another tough schedule stretch for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

No it is not yet Friday, but we are giving you Trending Penguins Players a day early due to a scheduling conflict that I have. You may treat it as Friday if you like.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the middle of another daunting part of their schedule, having just completed games against the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild, and a home-and-home with the Colorado Avalanche, before playing the Rangers again on Thursday and then the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators on a back-to-back this weekend.

That is rough, especially this three three games in four night stretch against those three teams.

The Penguins lost those two games against Colorado despite some strong efforts in both.

Now they have another game against their likely first round opponent.

So who is playing well and who is not heading into this tough weekend? We check it out in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.

Who Is Hot

The Evan Rodrigues, Teddy Blueger, Kasperi Kapanen line. The struggles of Rodrigues and Kapanen to score goals on an individual level have been well documented, but something happens when these two guys get to play on a line together where the line becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It does not matter who the third player is, they always perform well, and that has especially been true with Blueger in the middle of them. They were great in these past couple of games together, including on Tuesday night when they teamed up for a goal in the third period. The only problem with this line? It appears to be no more if Jason Zucker returns and Jeff Carter gets placed in between Rodrigues and Kapanen on the third line. At least Rodrigues and Kapanen stay together.

Jake Guentzel. Weird stretch for him right now as he has had some tough misses on great looks, but he is still always right in the center of the chances. He also has four points (one goal, three assists) over the past two games. He keeps getting the looks he is getting they are eventually going to start going in the net.

Jason Zucker’s injury not being as bad as it looked. Hate to keep harping on this, but they really need him back on that second line. When he initially was injured in Minnesota it looked like a potential season-ender for him, but he was back on the ice in a normal jersey on Wednesday and is making the trip to New York for the game on Thursday. All good signs.

Who Is Not

Danton Heinen. It is not even the fact that he is not playing well. He is just simply not playing. Like, at all. He has been under six minutes of ice time in each of the past three games and is clearly falling out of favor with the coaching staff. He might actually be the odd man out when Brock McGinn returns. It is unfortunate because he had such a great start to the season and seemed like he might be a really nice secondary scoring addition.

Jeff Carter on the second line. Overall Carter has been very good and very productive since joining the Penguins. But he is not working out on the Evgeni Malkin-Rickard Rakell line at the moment. It is also a concern that all of his value seems to be tied directly to his ability to score goals. When he is scoring goals it is great. But he is not really driving a line the way the Penguins need him to drive a line. It honestly would not disappoint me to see them keep Blueger between Rodrigues and Kapanen and drop Carter down to the fourth line for a bit.

Brian Dumoulin. At this point it is no longer just a tough stretch. We might be witnessing the full blown decline of a really outstanding player. The way you know Dumoulin is struggling is the simple fact you notice him more often, and not always in a positive way. When Dumoulin was at his best he was a player that never really stood out. Offense was never a huge part of his play, but his defensive impacts were always more subtle and understated. He would not get beat. He would not be guilty of the turnover. He would not misplay the puck. He would not lose his assignment or leave his spot open. All of those things are happening with greater regularity now.