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Insider Only March to the Playoffs: Coaching Staff must find the right fit for Evgeni Malkin

The Pittsburgh Penguins are off to a 0-2 start on their five game road trip after losses to the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils.
The Devils dominance against the Penguins continued Friday night as Martin Brodeur made 34 saves and Ilya Kovalchuk added a goal and two assists in New Jersey’s 3-1 win.
The Devils improved to 5-0 against Pittsburgh this season and are now two points behind the Penguins in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand.
The Devils have dominated Pittsburgh in all areas. A few stats that jump out is that New Jersey has outscored Pittsburgh 17-3 and Pittsburgh is 0-for-18 on the power play in five games against the Devils. Pittsburgh was 0-for-5 on the power play Friday night.
Pittsburgh’s top players have also not played well against New Jersey. Sergei Gonchar is a minus-6 in three games and Evgeni Malkin is pointless in four games.
With two straight losses, head coach Dan Bylsma will continue to look to find the right lineup to matchup against New Jersey in the wake of Pittsburgh’s return to New Jersey next Wednesday.
The opportunity is now there for Tyler Kennedy to get back into the lineup. Bylsma made a line change on Sidney Crosby’s line to open up the game against New Jersey, putting Bill Guerin on the third line and will likely eye more changes, possibly on the second line.
After a strong start following the Olympic break, Ruslan Fedotenko is pointless in his last four games along with a plus/minus rating of minus-4. Fedotenko who has a team worst minus-18 rating, continues to be plagued by inconsistent play.
In a battle for a division title, how much longer can the Penguins wait for Fedotenko to resemble the player he was last year in the playoffs?

Bylsma has to go with what is going to be his most complete lineup and that might not include Fedotenko. What has been concerning in talking to a few members of the organization is that there seems be a vibe that the coaching staff is going to stick with Fedotenko on the second line for the long run.
A key for the coaching staff going into the playoffs is finding the right fit for Evgeni Malkin. Ponikarovsky and Malkin need more time together and finding that other fit alongside Malkin and Ponikarovsky will be the key for Pittsburgh.
Bill Guerin by no means is going to be a long-term fit on the Penguins third line. He’s either going to be playing on Sidney Crosby’s or Evgeni Malkin’s line. Guerin infact could be a logical fit with Malkin.
Malkin is at his best when he’s playing with a player whose an effective fore-checker and wins battles in the corners. Right now he’s not getting that from his wingers.
The staff has plenty of options to explore. Ruslan Fedotenko isn’t the only one.

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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