Pens AM Skate: DeSmith Gets Another Start
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Pens AM Skate: DeSmith Gets Another Start

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In something of a surprise, Casey DeSmith will get another start in goal Friday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Boston Bruins. Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed that after the morning skate at PPG Paints Arena.

That apparently sets Matt Murray’s return from a lower-body injury for Saturday at home against Los Angeles.

“We’re trying to put Matt in the best possible position to be successful,” Sullivan said.  “He’s had one team practice and a morning skate (since getting full medical clearance).

“The reality is, we’re playing back to backs, so they’re both going to get games. When we looked at it as a coaching staff, it was more about how do we get the best out of both of them? When you look at the schedule, both in the short-term playing back-to-back, but also in the bigger picture where we play six games in nine nights, both of these guys are going to get playing time.”

DeSmith started Wednesday night in Chicago, giving up four goals in a 6-3 loss.

Murray, who was struggling even before he got hurt, went on injured reserve on Thanksgiving. He was returned to the active roster Wednesday but didn’t start in Chicago, instead backing up DeSmith. Murray is expected to fill that backup role again against the Bruins.

Sullivan said injured winger Dominik Simon remains out week-to-week and winger Patric Hornqvist remains out day-to-day. “They’re both making progress,” Sullivan said.

The lines at the Penguins morning skate had a different look:

Tanner Pearson-Sidney Crosby-JakeGuentzel

Zach Aston-Reese/Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel

Riley Sheahan-Derick Brassard-Bryan Rust

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Derek Grant-Matt Cullen-Garrett Wilson/J.S. Dea

The defensive pairings:

Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson-Jack Johnson

Olli Maatta-Jamie Oleksiak

For a brief spell, and not for the first time this season, Brassard was moved up to Crosby’s wing on the top line, but he is back to his third-line center role, according to what the team did in the morning skate.

Pearson had been playing on Evgeni Malkin’s line.

Crosby didn’t offer much of a description of what the dynamic with Pearson might be.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Crosby said. “At this point, all of us have played together at some point, whether it’s a few shifts or a game or two. I think everyone just needs to play the way they’re capable of, and everyone just needs to understand their roles.”

Pearson pointed out that he’s not exactly coming from a bottom-six role.

“Playing with (Malkin), too, a really, really high-end centerman,” Pearson said. “Playing with guys like (Malkin and Crosby), you kind of get open and they’ll find your stick somehow, some way or another, and you’ve just got to be ready when it comes to you.”

Aston-Reese is staying even-keel about moving up to play with Malkin and Kessel.

“The important thing playing with those (high-end) guys is just keeping my game the same, not trying to be a skill guy, just play a hard, strong game and try to create some traffic in front,” Aston-Reese said.

“Anytime you shuffle the lineup, you question what do we need to do better?”

 

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Shelly is the newest columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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