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Aside from Evgeni Malkin and some puck luck in the third period, a storyline out of the Penguins 5-4 win over the Canucks was the Penguins’ blueline.

The Penguins had planned to get Derrick Pouliot in a game or two before he is sent back down to Wilkes Barre on Wednesday and with Ian Cole struggling this was going to be the more ideal game to get Pouliot in than Sunday (which is now cancelled) against the NHL leading Capitals.

The storyline wasn’t just Pouliot getting into the lineup.

In a move that has needed to happen, the coaching staff split up the Brian Dumoulin – Ben Lovejoy pair by bumping Trevor Daley up with Dumoulin and moving Lovejoy to the third pair with Pouliot.

This narrative that Ben Lovejoy has a great impact on young defensemen is quite laughable. In Anaheim Cam Fowler carried Lovejoy and if the Dumoulin – Lovejoy pair remains split up moving forward, fans are going to see how much Dumoulin carried Lovejoy.

It’s important for the Penguins to get Lovejoy into a No. 3 pairing role where he is more suited anyways. Less time 5 v 5 with the top-2 lines is also a win for the Penguins. Splitting up Dumoulin – Lovejoy shouldn’t be a short-term thing even if changing up the d-pairs wasn’t a smashing success vs Vancouver, despite the good advance stats from the No. 2 and No. 3 pairs.

With Lovejoy away from Dumoulin who continues to play at a top-4 level, the Pouliot – Lovejoy pairing was a disaster in the first period. However, they weren’t alone.

Olli Maatta was worse and had an extremely poor game in dealing with the Canucks speed upfront and his puck management was abysmal.

Back to Pouliot.

He got his ‘back-to-the NHL’ moment in just his second shift of the game.

The Pouliot – Lovejoy pairing allowed four high danger scoring opportunities in the first period. Head coach Mike Sullivan felt Pouliot improved as the game went on.

“I thought as the game went on, Pouliot adjusted well,” Sullivan said. “He made some pretty good outlet passes. We know he’s going to continue to improve and get better.”

Sullivan also called Pouliot getting some game action a great experience for him.

Right now is the Penguins best lineup with Pouliot as the No. 6 d-man or Ian Cole?

One side of the argument is the best way for Pouliot to get better defensively is to take his lumps at the NHL level. That might be true but barring injuries, hard to see this coaching staff willing to take that stance down the stretch in fighting for a playoff spot and there’s a reason Pouliot is not being looked at as a player whose going to be a significant contributor this season.

With Pouliot’s offense not at the point where it outweighs his defensive issues, coaches almost always go with the safer player and that’s why Ian Cole or even David Warsofsky is likely to be favored over Pouliot down the stretch and into the post-season.

Pouliot not yet being counted out on for a big role with the NHL club might be concerning being he was the 8th overall pick in a draft that was almost four years ago, but the real issue for the Penguins in the present has been Ian Cole looking everything of the No. 7 defenseman he was in St. Louis and Olli Maatta still not there of being an impact top-4 defenseman on a nightly basis. Maatta has his moments but the consistency is not yet there.

Those reasons along with obvious concerns of Kris Letang going down with a significant injury, has the Penguins badly looking to add a top-4 defenseman.

Rental trade targets the Penguins love, Kris Russell and Dustin Byfuglien, are not yet available. One name with term and very much available that the Penguins have discussed internally and those discussions will continue at their scouting meetings is Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

TIOPS TIDBITS

Matt Cullen started the game on the 4th line but with Chris Kunitz out, Cullen would find his way skating on Sidney Crosby’s left wing. Cullen played over nine minutes at even strength with Crosby and Patric Hornqvist. Cullen has quickly become a favorite of Mike Sullivan.

Carl Hagelin’s play away from the puck was excellent in the win. Hagelin’s speed on the back check in the neutral zone in providing backpressure was very strong, notably on Evgeni Malkin’s third goal of the game.

Beau Bennett has been dealing with a right shoulder injury since last spring that team sources indicate could need s Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

POST-GAME NUMBERS

1st Hat Trick in almost four years: First hat trick since February 25, 2012.

Improved Power Play Numbers: Malkin scored 10 power play goals or more in his first four NHL seasons and five of his first six seasons. Malkin’s 10 power play goals this season is the first time he’s scored 10 power play goals in a season since the 2011-2012 season, also the last season he totaled more than 72 points in a season.

Point Per Game Malkin: Malkin’s three point game has him leading the Penguins with 47 points in 47 games. The last time Malkin finished a season averaging under one point per game was in 2010-2011 when he had an injury shortened season with 37 points in 43 games.

Offensive Production Continues for Letang: Kris Letang was a minus-3 in the win but picked up two assists giving him 28 points in his last 26 games.

6-for-6 – Sidney Crosby has scored in six straight home games.

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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