Malkin expected to get spot duty on Crosby’s line
Pittsburgh Penguins star center Sidney Crosby talked after practice
on Tuesday about being ready for the challenge to go up against the Ottawa Senators top D-pairing of Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips.
The Senators will work to get that matchup in nearly every situation in game 1 as the Senators second line of Matt Cullen – Mike Fisher and Milan Michalek will also get the assignment of shutting down Sidney Crosby.
A hot topic on Tuesday was whether Dan Bylsma, who is a strong believer in the three-center model during the playoffs, will look to play Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together and go strength against strength.
“It will happen but probably not as much as you saw, the last few games, ” Bylsma said after practice.
Crosby vs Volchenkov-Phillips is not the only intriguing matchup in the series.
With the last change in games 1 and 2, Pittsburgh will look to match Jordan Staal up against the Senators top line of Peter Regin – Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.
The Staal – Spezza matchup will be among the pivotal matchups in the series. Spezza who is one of the most dynamic players in the game, is the Senators X-factor in the series. If the Senators are to upset the defending Stanley Cup champions, Spezza will have to be the Senators “Crosby” or “Malkin”.
A knee injury hindered Spezza’s play in the first half of the season but since late January, Spezza has scored 18 goals and added 20 assists in the Senators final 30 games. Spezza’s 18 goals matched the amount of goals Sidney Crosby had in his final 30 games.
Spezza’s production of late is a bright sign for the Senators as the talented forward had 7 goals in the Senators’ final 11 games and is playing his best hockey of the season.
Going head-to-head against Staal could be a matchup that favors Pittsburgh. As talented as Spezza is, he struggles against big strong defensive centers who match his size and skating ability.
Senators head coach Cory Clouston will likely try to match Spezza up against Malkin.
In talking to some Senators people today, there expecting the Senators third line of Jarkko Ruutu – Chris Kelly and Chris Neil to see plenty of Evgeni Malkin’s line, based on the assumption that Clouston will be unable to get Spezza’s line away from Jordan Staal.
According to Sens sources, the Senators intend to be very physical with the likes of Malkin and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
The opportunities will be there for Malkin’s line to exploit the Senators third line defensively but Ponikarovsky and Fedotenko are two players that don’t like to play physical and it’s going to be interesting to see if the Senators decide to go with this speculated matchup.
Senators Projected Lineup based on Tuesday’s skate
Regin – Spezza – Alfredsson
Cullen – Fisher – Michalek
Ruutu – Kelly – Neil
Foligno – Smith – Winchester
Phillips – Volchenkov
Sutton – Karlsson
Carkner – Campoli
*Preview and My prediction for the series will be posted after the Penguins morning skate around noon*