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‘Have Some Fun Tonight,’ Gm 5: Penguins Lines, Prospects & What to Watch vs. Red Wings

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings logo

It may be a glimpse into the Pittsburgh Penguins future, so make of the lineups what you will. On Wednesday, the Penguins made four recalls from the WBS Penguins to complete the roster for Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings. Only a couple of NHL regulars will be in the Penguins lineup, so it will be another prospects show.

It will also be the last prospects show as head coach Mike Sullivan said his final preseason game will feature most, or all, of his NHL lineup.

The Penguins power play may give us a glimpse into 2023 and beyond. P.O. Joseph and Juuso Riikola took the points, with Sam Poulin, Radim Zohorna, and Nathan Legare across the bottom.

That could also be a very potent line for the WBS Penguins this season if Zohorna doesn’t stick on the NHL roster.

Later in the morning skate, which doubled as a practice session, center Brian Boyle schooled Drew O’Connor and Zohorna on faceoffs as assistant coach Mike Vellucci dropped the pucks.

Boyle, 36, looks like a lock, but one slip can create doubt, especially for a PTO.

“I understand what my strengths are. I’m going to play to those,” Boyle said. “I’m going to try to prove it tonight again. The first exhibition game (I) didn’t love. The second one was a little better. I want to just keep progressing.”

The Penguins’ lines were a bit jumbled on Thursday morning and split into two ends of the ice. It will be a prospect-heavy affair, and P.O. Joseph probably has the best outlook.

“I think every time you come to the rink, you can show yourself. Either it’s in the gym or on the ice during practice or on game day,” Joseph said. “But yeah, I think tonight is a great chance for a lot of us and we’ve got a really young core out there, but for sure, we are going to have some fun tonight.”

Pittsburgh Penguins Lines

O’Connor-Boyle-Angello

Simon-Zohorna-Puustinen

Poulin-Lafferty-Legare

Bjorkqvist-Gruden-Hallander

Defense

Matheson-Ruhwedel

Joseph-Riikola

Almari-Fedun–rotated through other pairings.

Goalies:

Casey DeSmith

Louis Domingue

Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:

The Penguins and Detroit Red Wings did not play each other last season (thanks, COVID). In 2019-20 the Penguins were 3-0 against the Red Wings, including a 2-0 record at Little Caesars Arena. Over the last six regular-season games against Detroit, the Penguins are 5-1-0. Last Sunday, the Penguins beat the Red Wings at home, 5-1.

On Wednesday, the Penguins made four recalls to fill out the prospect roster: Valterri Puustinen, Niclas Almari, Jon Gruden, and Taylor Fedun.

The game is the Penguins’ next to the last preseason game before they begin the regular season on Tuesday in Tampa Bay.

It appears Brian Boyle has won a job in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup. The wingers have rotated around Boyle, including Drew O’Connor and Radim Zohorna.

What to Watch:

Drew O’Connor: Can the 23-year-old prospect force his way into the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, or will he fall just short? He’s been the breakout of camp and looks like a different player than the vanilla, ho-hum winger who got a cup of coffee at the beginning of last season. He’s been good and better in the preseason. His waiver-exempt status works against him, but his play has been a positive.

P.O. Joseph: The young defenseman has played it safe in his preseason game action. That’s disappointing. He hasn’t made any glaring mistakes or errors, but he hasn’t seized a job, either. He could have put the Penguins coaches in a tough spot, and head coach Mike Sullivan opened the door to shuffling the blue line pairings if Joseph commanded a spot. Joseph, 21, has to let it rip.

Nathan Legare: He’s been solid in his preseason games and led the Penguins with eight shots on goal. However, he’s had high points and been invisible in others. He’s not a candidate to break camp with the team, but he needs to show he’s learning the lessons and play a full 60. When he does that, he’s going to be a good NHL player.

Casey DeSmith: He needs to be better than he was against Detroit on Sunday in the Penguins 5-4 shootout win. DeSmith was OK. Perhaps Louis Domingue will get some of the game action on Thursday, which would be a nod to his strong training camp.

Sam Poulin: The Penguins’ 2019 first-round pick has been solid but unspectacular. He also must “let it rip” and get after the puck with a little more energy and intensity rather than the “paint-by-numbers” conservative approach. He needs to show that he’s a power forward, not a vanilla down-lines player—no time like the present.

How to Watch:

The game will be on AT&T Sportsnet. It will also be on the Penguins flagship radio station, 105.9 the X.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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