The Latest Penguins Buzz
Staal to wing talk
*Don’t buy into any talk out there of Jordan Staal getting an extended look at wing in training camp. I’m told there are no plans to explore a possible move to wing for Staal. His spot in the lineup will be in his normal third line center role or 2nd line center spot with Malkin at wing.
Bylsma hints at Malkin to wing again
*The Penguins remain very intrigued about the Staal/Malkin experiment that never got to happen last season. Dan Bylsma again last week referred to Evgeni Malkin as playing wing, via Tribune-Review.
Although expectations are eventually that the Penguins are going to end up with their normal three center model when it’s all said and done, the Staal (center)/ Malkin (wing) experiment is going to get an extended look, likely starting in training camp and very early into next season.
Different Options at Play
*Head coach Dan Bylsma has mentioned possible interest in James Neal playing right wing on Sidney Crosby’s line. For a player who scored 3 goals in his final 40 games last season (PIT/DAL) and appeared to have lost his hands, moving Neal away from his natural left wing position shouldn’t be something actively explored during camp.
Moving one of Kunitz or Neal to right wing, also weakens the left wing position in the top-6.
Where do Kennedy, Sullivan fit in top-9, if ,as expected, Malkin goes to right wing
Malkin to right wing would likely impact Tyler Kennedy or Steve Sullivan in the top-6.
Kennedy coming off a 21-goal season deserves at least an extended look with either Malkin or Crosby. However, Kennedy would be a better fit than Sullivan on a likely third line of Matt Cooke and Mark Letestu if Staal moves up to second line center.
Meanwhile, those in Nashville circles have questions about Sullivan being able to fill a top-6 role with Pittsburgh on a nightly basis. I’m told that he’s reached the point where his even strength minutes should be in the 11-12 minute range at the most.
Sullivan had under 16 minutes of ice time a game in his final 23 games with Nashville last season, including playoffs.
Although a lot of people keep trying to sell me on the signing. I’m still not a fan of it.
Dupuis a 4th liner?
Another impact of Evgeni Malkin moving to wing? It could very well push Pascal Dupuis to the 4th line, a spot I’m sure the Penguins feel he doesn’t belong in.
Left Wingers: Kunitz, Neal, Cooke in front of Dupuis
Right Wingers: Malkin, Kennedy, Sullivan in front of Dupuis
Malkin at center keeps Dupuis in the top-9 and maybe back on the top line with Crosby and Kunitz as Sullivan could slide down to wing on Malkin’s line and Kennedy could stay on the third line with Cooke and Staal.
It’s going to be very intriguing to watch next season how Malkin fits into the lineup and see how it’s going to impact so many others on the depth chart.
While Malkin at wing impacts the likes of Dupuis, Kennedy and Sullivan on the depth chart, Malkin at center would have a big impact on Mark Letestu who would suddenly be out of a top-9 spot.
One thing Bylsma won’t be able to complain about next season is not having a lot of options with his lineup.
Little to no expectations for Tangradi to compete for spot
At the start of last season, many felt a year from then that Eric Tangradi opening the 2011-2012 season as a regular with the big club would be a good bet.
Not so much anymore. I’m told that there are little to no expectations from higher up’s in the organization of Tangradi being a regular next season, assuming the team stays healthy.
The prospects the Penguins feel are ready to compete for full-time spots include Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Vitale and Nick Johnson.
Jeffrey though likely won’t be fully healthy for the start of camp and Johnson is now behind Kennedy, Sullivan and possibly Malkin at right wing on the depth chart.
Johnson is one of those players who needs Malkin to play center to have a shot at making the big club.
— I’m not a big fan of projecting lines two months before camp but here’s what I’m hearing:
Kunitz – Crosby – Sullivan
Neal – Staal – Malkin
Cooke – Letestu – Kennedy
Dupuis – Adams – Asham