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Penguins Practice Notes: attempting the right fit on the right wing

Looking at the interesting and maybe aggravating new combinations the Penguins used

Pittsburgh Penguins v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins got what becomes a rare treat late in the season on Sunday, a full off day that did not involve traveling, practicing or playing a game. They were back at it today, before heading out to Detroit for tomorrow night’s contest, sporting some new look lines. There was no Jeff Carter, but the veteran was excused for personal reasons and is expected to play tomorrow night.

Coach Mike Sullivan has most often tinkered with his right wing positions, and we see that again here on today’s right side combinations. Sullivan’s comments about Granlund and “defensive presence” ruffled some feathers on the internet. A coach can say some maddening things, and that qualifies, but the spoken word doesn’t truly matter all that much. If Sullivan said he liked the Granlund-Zucker connection (that dates back over a decade to playing on a productive line in Minnesota) or that he wanted more of a playmaking element there, he probably wouldn’t have touched a nerve, but alas.

Then again, with only one assist and two points in 13 games as a Penguin, Granlund hasn’t provided much justification to play on a top line counted on for their scoring, for any reason.

Bryan Rust remaining on the top line ought to be equally curious. Rust has just one 5v5 point, an assist, in his last 12 games (where he’s also tacked on an empty net goal and a power play assist). Keeping him and not the more consistent Rickard Rakell on the Sidney Crosby line opens Sullivan up to criticism if it fails.

However, Rakell is on the third line — continuing the team’s never-ending quest for balance and the power to have a supporting scoring line beyond ones that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play on. Sullivan could look great here if Ryan Poehling continues his recent encouraging play and stays productive.

The Penguins don’t have a ton of talent to spread around, but it looks like they will try to do just that tomorrow night against the Red Wings by having RW’s of questionable form on the top two lines in order to try and gain more balance and power on their third line.

It will be interesting to see what results this idea will yield and how long it will last.

More news and notes:

  • Jeff Petry participated in practice and was called a “game time decision” for tomorrow night by Sullivan. That phrasing is almost always a sign that an injured player is going to be back playing unless he suffers a very late and unexpected setback. That’s a good sign for the Penguins, who desperately need to see their defense strengthened by injury returns. Petry’s return would mean that the team will have to send one of Mark Friedman or (more likely) Taylor Fedun back to the AHL tomorrow.
  • Tristan Jarry made it through practice and seems good to go...But will he go tomorrow? This might mark the first time that the Pens aren’t treating Jarry like a full on No. 1 goalie by opting to keep him to the side after returning to health — provided that Casey DeSmith gets the nod. DeSmith’s earned such an opportunity. I highly doubt that Jarry won’t get another opportunity to take his spot back over at some point, but it just goes to show that now with only nine regular season games to go that the goaltending situation in Pittsburgh is as unsettled and uncertain now as it’s been in a while.