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Insider Only Can the Penguins develop a scoring third line and a shutdown line in their bottom-6?

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WHAT TO MAKE OF THE PENGUINS BOTTOM-6

Matt Cullen on the surface should be the Penguins’ fifth best center on the roster behind Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr.

For Cullen, though, it’s no contest. He’s established himself as the third best center on the roster.

The Penguins systematic change in style has been a perfect fit in utilizing Cullen’s speed. He was a factor again vs Washington and his line had a dominant possession night. Interesting enough, Mike Sullivan is breaking up that line tonight in a likely attempt to try to get Nick Bonino going.

Pittsburgh’s bottom-6 is a mishmash right now. The Wilkes Barre group have had their moments but down the stretch and hopefully for the Penguins’ sake in the post-season, it’s pivotal to the team putting together a third line with skill that can add secondary scoring and a second bottom-6 line that can be more of a shutdown unit, a line you can put up against Alexander Ovechkin if need be.

Potential pieces might be there.

Beau Bennett and Eric Fehr returning to the lineup and STAYING HEALTHY (BIG IF) will go a long way to the Penguins having this option.

Both skated again this morning.

Bennett is the closest of the two and Pittsburgh is reaching the point where they should throw in the towel on building a scoring third line around Nick Bonino, something Mike Sullivan initially wanted to do when hired.

Other than some moments in the playmaking department, Bonino continues to give the Penguins little in creating individual scoring chances. Hasn’t scored a goal in 29 games and is rarely a threat. His past production in previous years is the past. There’s enough of a sample this season where he can’t be counted on to be much of a factor offensively.

Bonino is a superior defensive player than Matt Cullen and with the way Cullen is fitting in offensively under Sullivan, Pittsburgh’s focus should be developing a shutdown line around Bonino and Eric Fehr once Fehr gets back. Mid-March is viewed as a possible return for Fehr.

One line that could be intriguing is Kuhnhackl – Bonino – Fehr. It would give the Penguins a nice combination of size on the wings to play a heavy game down low in potential matchups with the Rangers or Capitals. You need a responsible line you could throw out against an Alexander Ovechkin when needed and that could be it. All three players fit that mold.

The Penguins are really missing just another skilled player to plug in the top-9 and that’s where Beau Bennett is so frustrating for the Penguins’ organization. He should be that Kris Versteeg Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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