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Off-Day Report: Can Kunitz jumpstart Evgeni Malkin’s game going into the playoffs?

photo (10)CROSBY SPEAKS
Sidney Crosby spoke today nine days after suffering a broken jaw and despite the uncertainty of when he’s going to be able to return to the lineup, let alone start strenuous workouts, Crosby was in good spirits this afternoon. “I feel better than after the first couple days,” said Crosby who spent three days in the hospital. Crosby’s teeth were a mess following the incident and the Penguins captain said today he got “new tops” and lost three or four teeth in his bottom. Crosby has bigger concerns than his teeth. “I’m not too worried about the teeth,” Crosby said. “I’m more worried about making sure I’m healed. Hopefully that’s sooner.”
The big thing for Crosby will be putting the weight back on when he can start eating solid foods. Right now he can only eat liquids and said today that it is “impossible to keep weight”.
“It’s impossible to keep weight,” Crosby said. “I’ll be excited when I can eat. “It’s been shakes and it hasn’t been too enjoyable that way.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma was happy to see Crosby around today. “To be around today {good to see}, was talking hockey with the guys, talking about the power play, different plays, he’s watching and was apart of it today,” Bylsma said of Crosby.
PENGUINS UNVEIL NEW TOP LINE
With James Neal sidelined due to a concussion and of course Sidney Crosby out indefinitely, the Penguins unveiled a new top line they plan to use on the up coming three game road trip.
With Jarome Iginla moving over to right wing, Bylsma for now has opted against putting Beau Bennett into a top-line left wing role with Malkin and Iginla, and has reunited Chris Kunitz with Malkin.
Kunitz today skated on left wing with Malkin at center and Jarome Iginla on right wing.
“We did it in the last eight in a half minutes of last game,” Bylsma said of Kunitz playing with Malkin and Iginla. “Just think immediate comfort level putting Chris on that line with Geno and that’s definitely what we’ll be seeing going forward in Carolina.”
Starting tomorrow the Penguins finish the regular season with nine games in 18 games and the hope for the Penguins has to be that Kunitz can jumpstart Evgeni Malkin’s game going into the playoffs.
The Penguins have gotten by with Malkin being just average for his standards with 6 goals and 27 points in 26 games and while Malkin gets to play pressure free in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby around, if the Penguins don’t get Sidney Crosby back or playing at the level he was, Malkin has to turn his game up another switch if the Penguins want to get where they want to go.
“He’s quick, great shot, gives you puck to shoot and score,” Malkin said of Kunitz.
MORE BUZZ
Look for the Penguins top-4 lines tomorrow vs Carolina to be:
Kunitz – Malkin – Iginla
Morrow – Jokinen – Dupuis
Cooke – Sutter – Kennedy
Glass – Adams – Bennett
James Neal has been diagnosed with a concussion but he doesn’t have a concussion history and Neal is said to be doing good. “He’s been feeling a lot better and feeling pretty good but you just don’t know with these type of injuries and we’ll just take it day to day,” Bylsma said.
— The Penguins top power play unit will now feature Kunitz, Jussi Jokinen and Evgeni Malkin down low with Matt Niskanen and Jarome Iginla at the points. “Today we put Jokinen in Neal’s spot on the power play,” Bylsma said. “That’s what we looked to do there. “Other unit would have Beau Bennett and Tyler Kennedy with Morrow in front of the net with one of two defensemen or Pascal Dupuis {at the points}.”

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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