LA Kings (29-22-2, 60pts) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (34-17-4, 72pts)
PITTSBURGH — It appears the Penguins saw what many of us saw in the need to get some speed in the lineup and some kind of skill.
The Penguins yesterday demoted Eric Tangradi and Tim Wallace and have recalled forwards Ryan Craig, Nick Johnson, Brett Sterling and Joe Vitale for tonight’s game.
Johnson, 25, leads WBS with 20 goals while placing second (tied) with 39 points in 48 games. He also has a team-high 10 power-play goals.
Sterling, 26, is also tied for second in scoring on WBS with 39 points through 46 contests. He’s posted 18 goals, 21 assists, six power-play goals and a plus-12 rating.
Craig, 29, ranks fourth on WBS with 33 points on 13 goals and 20 assists in 49 games.
Vitale, 25, has appeared in 50 games this season for WBS, recording eight goals, 27 points, a plus-12 rating and two shorthanded tallies.
What Johnson and Sterling will be bring to the lineup is a little bit of skill. Johnson is not a very good skater but adds playmaking and scoring ability, something the Penguins desperately lack right now.
Vitale will add some speed to the Penguins 4th line, something Tangradi and Wallace just couldn’t provide. Ryan Craig should also provide some grit for the Penguins and is a player with NHL experience. He was having a very good training camp before a groin injury hindered his chances of making the club out of camp.
The Penguins will take the ice at 10:30 a.m.
Arron Asham and Chris Kunitz will not play tonight due to injury. As I mentioned last night, Kunitz is expected to sit out for at least the next three games.
Among the regulars out of the lineup tonight include: Sidney Crosby (neck/concussion), Evgeni Malkin (out for season), Matt Cooke (suspension), Mark Letestu (knee), Chris Kunitz (lower body) and Arron Asham (Shoulder)
NEW LOOK LINES
10:20 a.m. – Ryan Craig will wear #23 tonight. Nick Johnson #38, Joe Vitale #46 and Brett Sterling #12.
10:30 a.m. – The Penguins are starting to go through their line rushes. Here’s how tonight’s lineup is going to look:
Dupuis – Staal – Kennedy
Sterling – Jeffrey – Johnson
Conner – Talbot – Rupp
Craig – Vitale – Adams
Orpik – Letang
Martin – Michalek
Goligoski – Engelland
Scratches: Ben Lovejoy and Eric Godard will be healthy scratches
Johnson to see prominent role?
Look like Nick Johnson will see a decent amount of playing time tonight in a top-6 role and 1st power play role. Johnson is working with the first power play unit during the morning skate, working in the high slot.
Brett Sterling is also expected to see some power play time. He is working with the 2nd unit.
1st Unit: Staal – Johnson – Jeffrey
Letang – Goligoski.
2nd Unit: Rupp – Sterling – Kennedy
Michalek – Martin
Matt Cooke who is suspended for four games, is premitted to practice with the team. He is out there this morning.