In a schedule shift that seemed to be designed to get him on the ice with his teammates, winger Kasperi Kapanen joined the Pittsburgh Penguins at practice Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
At least for the start of practice with Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker, a surprise as it was thought Kapanen would skate on Sidney Crosby’s line with Jake Guentzel. Bryan Rust moved to Crosby’s line. Later, Kapanen joined Crosby and Guentzel as the team apparently is giving Kapanen a couple different looks. He seemed to settle in with Crosby’s line for most of the session.
The Penguins originally were scheduled to have Monday as a day off, but following Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win over Washington announced they were flipping days and now will have Wednesday off. No doubt that had a whole lot to do with getting Kapanen some practice time with Crosby and Co.
Kapanen, 24, who was originally drafted in the first round by the Penguins in 2014, was shipped to Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade in 2015 before he had a chance to play in the NHL. Last August, the Penguins reacquired Kapanen from the Maple Leafs in a six-player deal that also sent the Penguins’ 2020 first-round pick to Toronto.
Kapanen was the key to the trade from the Penguins’ perspective. The team immediately penciled him in to skate on one of the top two lines, with either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but that eventually got refined to Crosby’s line. Then came Monday’s initial surprise, with him on Malkin’s line. Malkin has been centering Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust.
Evan Rodrigues has been filling in on the right side of the top line through training camp and in the first three games, and despite scoring Sunday he was not considered a long-term solution.
Kapanen was delayed in terms of joining the team because of work visa problems in his native Finland, followed by an eight-day quarantine to comply with the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Here is what the forward lines looked like once Kapanen moved to Crosby’s flank:
Jake Guentzel–Sidney Crosby–Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker–Evgeni Malkin–Bryan Rust
Jared McCann–Mark Jankowski–Brandon Tanev
Evan Rodrigues/Sam Lafferty–Teddy Blueger–Colton Sceviour