New Penguins Lines, Pairings & Breakout Work: Penguins Practice Report
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Penguins Practice

New Penguins Lines, Pairings & Breakout Work: Penguins Practice Report



Pittsburgh Penguins Practice

Cranberry Twp, PA — The Pittsburgh Penguins practice was a brisque skate with specific instructions. They were embarrassed Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres and Evgeni Malkin verbally warned his team afterward. Friday, the coaches changed the Penguins lines because no one could have seen enough good things Thursday night to keep the status quo.

First, the Penguins worked on breakouts from deep in the corners. Forwards and defensemen worked to pull the puck from the boards and quickly move it ahead with sometimes three passes before they exited the zone. One overriding theme Friday was the north-south game. Stick tap to Paul Steigerwald for quickly spotting it. The Penguins were stymied by Buffalo Thursday, in part because they didn’t play with speed and they didn’t support the puck. The first 10 minutes of practice was dedicated to both.

There should not be a secret why they practiced that after Thursday night.

“It is nice to put (Thursday) behind us. It was not our best and we know that,” Patric Hornqvist said. “We have to play better as a team. All guys, too. We all have to step up.”

The coaches also shuffled the lines. Dominik Simon was elevated from the fourth line to the top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Patric Hornqvist went back to the third line with Nick Bjugstad, who wasn’t particularly sharp Thursday. Hornqvist and Bjugstad enjoyed a wealth of success together last season. And Dominik Kahun quickly lost his spot on the third line and was placed with Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese on the fourth line.

“They’re very aware of how we played. And that’s the most important thing is that we see it for how it is,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “We have to be objective with ourselves and our performance.”

The defense pairings went back to the training camp projections, too. Jack Johnson played on the third pairing with Erik Gudbranson. Juuso Riikola swapped in with Johnson, too. So, we’ll have to wait until Saturday to find out who gets a sweater and who gets pressbox nachos.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Marcus Pettersson skated with Justin Schultz on the second pairing, as he did throughout the training camp.

PHN asked forward Zach Aston-Reese about what Buffalo did to be successful and why the Penguins weren’t. His answer relayed the Penguins mood Thursday night.

“Just everything,” he quipped before explaining himself more fully. But we’ll just leave the initial expression stand.

The Penguins are fighting themselves to erase last season, pushback the hands of time, find a team identity with a crop of new faces and compete in the meantime. It won’t be an easy task but the mood in the room was far better Friday than Thursday night.

Zach Aston-Reese said sometimes it’s better to get punched in the mouth early. For the record, the Penguins players knew they gave up seven odd-man rushes. Buffalo realized they had the Penguins on the ropes and sent a flyer out of the zone fishing for breakaways. Believe it or not, the Penguins scouted that and still weren’t prepared.

It was that kind of night.

“We had our moments when we had some sustained offense (Thursday). It certainly wasn’t consistent enough and I think the biggest takeaway for me after breaking the film down was a lot of isolated effort, not cooperative effort,” Sullivan said. “And that’s what we showed them on film this morning. We’ve got to work together as a group of five out there.”

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.



  1. Frank

    October 4, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    There are a number of thoughts about that opener and the reasons why.

    Well one of them may be on the rise as to probability. Maybe just maybe they just are not really that good anymore REGARDLESS of what they have delivered in prior years. REGARDLESS of line changes and practice drills. We will see. I would ignore what happens vs. CBJ. It might be impossible to show less interest in competing than last night no matter what. So they are bound to be better. Let’s see where they are after a dozen games. Tough to watch losing but worse when it comes with a healthy dose of embarrassing. But the Buccos have set the “embarrassment bar” in Pittsburgh so maybe we are just getting numb to it.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that the opener was “one of those games.” One thing for sure the fan base leash on this is going to be very very short.

  2. Edgar

    October 4, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    If Galchenyuk doesn’t have a big year, we are just too short in scoring talent on the wings.

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  4. Pauldia

    October 5, 2019 at 8:11 am

    The coaches also shuffled the lines. Dominik Simon was elevated from the fourth line to the top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.

    When will the sports media begin asking Sullivan about his odd and reality defying decisions regarding a border line, marginal NHL player?

    • Dan Kingerski

      October 5, 2019 at 8:44 am

      Dominik Simon is not a borderline NHL player. The line he is assigned scores more, almost without fail. Everyone wants him to have better stats but his value is demonstrable (we’ve done a few pieces on this and the numbers are shocking). He also looked much more assertive in the preseason, so he may grow into a better scorer, too. This is only his 2nd NHL season.

  5. Paul Katz

    October 5, 2019 at 10:22 am

    I guess we can agree to disagree. I watched as Sullivan elevated Simon in the
    2nd round loss to Washington! I scratched my head then only to become more befuddled as Sullivan’s strange elevation of Simon continued. last season.

    PP time? How’d that work out? The Islanders ignored him essentially making it a 4 in 4.
    Ok maybe my eyes are lying, and maybe the analytics will eventually prove correct, but I just do not see it. Yes I believe until now he is marginal NHL talent, widely available.

    And you don’t see based upon his short history , and playing big minutes and PP an odd inverse correlation between production and his opportunities?

    Who else has ever been given such opportunity ever, ….with his production ?

    • Dan Kingerski

      October 5, 2019 at 5:39 pm

      If something or someone made Sidney Crosby 10-20% more effective, would you not use that tool? Apologies for the generality, but “fans” see the lack of finish without factoring the chances created and the overall line production. The coaches pulled Simon off the line late last season because he was not converting, but give it a bit more time before making final pronouncements. This is his 2nd full year.

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