Where Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma has struggled at times is using the last change at home to his advantage. He did so Thursday night against Ottawa, failing to get Sidney Crosby away from Ottawa’s top defensive tandem.
However, against the Detroit Red Wings, it was a different story as Bylsma found ways to get Sidney Crosby away from Nik Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski.
With a Red Wings power play ending in the 2nd period, Bylsma got the Red Wings in major matchup problem, as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were on the ice against the Red Wings fourth line and no Lidstrom or Rafalski.
It resulted in a neutral zone breakdown by Detroit and Crosby finding an open lane off of a terrific cross-ice pass by Alex Goligoski and beating Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard for a 1-0 lead.
**Mark Letestu’s ability to mesh well with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke on the third line, gave Bylsma the opportunity for Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin to play together. He matched up Staal and Malkin against Zetterberg/Datsyuk with the idea of getting the Red Wings duo away from Crosby.
In the short-time together this season, Staal and Malkin have shown chemistry and created a number of offensive chances against Detroit.
“I thought we played well together, ” Jordan Staal said after the game.
It has sparked talk of whether the two should play together in more of a prominent role. In talking to some national reporters on Sunday, there was a growing consensus that Staal and Malkin should be playing together, while the vibe from the local media continues to be “you can’t break up the third line.”
I’m a supporter of Malkin and Staal playing together in more of a permanent role, despite the success of the Penguins “three center model”.
Going into the 2008-2009 season, members of the organization envisioned Staal/Malkin being the Penguins version of Zetterberg/Datsyuk playing together.
Although Staal continues to be inconsistent in the goal scoring department (0 goals in 12 games), his development offensively is leaps and bounds where it was last season, even though his stats may not indicate it.
**I’m hearing from sources that management see’s the return of Chris Kunitz (abdominal) this week as a trade deadline addition as the Penguins are playing the card that his injury has played a factor in his lack of production offensively this season.
It’s up for debate how many will buy that notion. Kunitz has 14 goals in 74 career games (including playoffs) with Penguins.
**Dan Bylsma praised his team after the game and indicated that’s the kind of game he wants out of his team.
*Sergei Gonchar appeared in his 300th career game in a Penguins uniform Sunday afternoon.
*On the injury front, Max Talbot did not participate in the Penguins pre-game skate or skate earlier in the morning. He’s regarded as doubtful against the Sabres.
Chris Kunitz will not play Monday night but I’m told he is targeting Saturday night’s game against Montreal.
*With back to back games, Pittsburgh will hold an optional skate Monday morning.