THURSDAY’S PENGUINS BUZZ
While some in upper management feel it’s time for Beau Bennett to get an extensive look in the top-6 and on the right side, Penguins head coach Mike Johnston is looking for balance with his four lines.
Johnston a believer of “two’s” when it comes to setting up his line combinations, will be shaking up the lines for tomorrow night’s contest with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Reunited on the top line will be Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, while Nick Spaling is expected to skate with Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist on the second line.
It was only a matter of time before the Penguins moved Hornqvist down with Malkin due to a lack of top-6 wingers. Scouts have pegged Hornqvist as a perfect compliment to Malkin due to his ability to win puck battles in the corners.
Malkin has been limited 5 v 5 this season with six even strength points and just 1 even strength goal. He has been on the ice for eight 5 v 5 goals and seven against. Malkin’s 1.93 Points/60 5 v 5 is below the likes of Blake Comeau, Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis.
While Hornqvist and Malkin have always been an ideal combination that didn’t happen right away because of Malkin’s injury, finding that player on the left side is going to remain a work in progress.
Nick Spaling reportedly got the first look with Malkin and Hornqvist today and in the summer there was talk of Johnston viewing those three as a potential second line combination but that’s a spot where Spaling will be greatly out of place.
If the Penguins coaches end up married to the idea of keeping Bennett and Brandon Sutter together, which is where Bennett wants to play, Steve Downie could be worth a look with Malkin and Hornqvist.
Sources say Bennett has never felt comfortable playing with Malkin and is most comfortable playing with Sutter and has expressed that desire to the coaching staff.
Johnston interested in playing Blake Comeau with Marcel Goc is not a surprise. The two showed chemistry in the preseason and Goc who also flashed offensively in the preseason, has provided nothing 5 v 5 in the regular season. His most common linemates have been Craig Adams and Zach Sill.
Comeau a strong possession player with an excellent shot adds more of a scoring threat on the 4th line than Nick Spaling would for instance but ideally a Comeau or Downie is going to need to play with Malkin if Bennett stays with Sutter.