Penguins – Predators Fallout

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan had soured on using Patric Hornqvist on Sidney Crosby’s right wing for a while but with Evgeni Malkin out and the Crosby line regressing in driving possession with Bryan Rust at right wing, moving Hornqvist back to Crosby’s line paid dividends in a 4-2 win over the Predators.

Hornqvist was in a comfort zone from the drop of the puck. With four goals in last four games, Hornqvist scored a 5 v 5 goal and added a power play goal, both goals within 15 feet, where Hornqvist has scored 90% of his goals this season.

“He does what he does,” Mike Sullivan said. “He’s our north-south guy. He plays in the battle areas, he goes to the net. He scores greasy-type goals when he’s in tight.”

Hornqvist starting to put the puck in the net has been a nice development.

The best fits among the Penguins top-9 when this team is fully healthy is still in flux from here on out.

The only pairing of two’s the coaching staff should be locked into is Conor Sheary – Sidney Crosby.

A good thing for the Penguins is Hornqvist can fit with either Malkin or Crosby. The numbers say the best fit is with Crosby.

When Crosby and Hornqvist have played together 5 v 5 this season, the Penguins have a Goals For% of 74 percentage, controlling 55% of their shot attempts, right in range with last season, 68 Goals For%, 57 CF%.

— What should intrigue the Penguins to want to add a top-9 forward by the deadline is what they’re getting from Chris Kunitz on the 4th line. Kunitz has found a really good fit on the 4th line with Scott Wilson in driving play and there’s a lot of promising signs there offensively when they get Matt Cullen back of a Kunitz – Cullen – Wilson 4th line down the stretch and come playoff time.

The Penguins have been counting on Jake Guentzel in the top-9 but if this wall Guentzel has hit the last couple games is a sign of things to come in the short-term this season, Pittsburgh will be forced to move Kunitz or Wilson back to the second or third line.

Wilson with two assists last night, is now 6th on the Penguins in averaging 1.99 Points/50 at even strength. Kunitz is 7th at 1.92.

Matt Murray made his seventh straight start vs the Predators. As stated a few weeks ago, it was time for the Penguins to move to Murray as the clear No. 1 but the handling of Marc Andre Fleury is now reaching the odd stages where the team hasn’t worked him in at all for a game or two during this stretch. When Fleury was by-passed to start a game last week prior to the all-star break, To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!