Guessing Game Continues With Penguins' Defense
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Guessing Game Continues With Penguins’ Defense

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Brian Dumoulin

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin and winger Zach Aston-Reese were defined Tuesday by coach Mike Sullivan as each being a “game-time decision” to return from injury for the club’s playoffs opener Wednesday against the New York Islanders.

Both players, for a second straight day, participated fully in practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, although Dumoulin again skated on a spare, fourth defensive pairing with Zach Trotman. Aston-Reese again rotated onto the fourth line.

The medical decision on those two won’t be the only decisions the Penguins will have to make when they – seemingly very soon – finally get completely healthy (save for depth defenseman Chad Ruhwedel).

One of the seven qualified defensemen will have to sit.

“It’s great,” Sullivan said of getting so close to a full contingent of defensemen. “I think it makes our team more competitive. It makes for difficult decisions for the coaching staff, but those are good decisions to have.

“The reality is, we feel as though for us to reach our ultimate goal we have to depth. You have to have everybody contribute. We just have to make sure that on a daily basis we do our very best to make the best decisions for the team in putting our lineup together, and the guys that aren’t in the lineup are going to stay ready.”

That ultimate goal, of course, being a third Stanley Cup in the past four years.

Let the speculation and opinions continue to fly over which defenseman will or should sit out and what the pairings will look like.

At practice Tuesday, the forward lines were the same as on Monday. The defensive pairings changed, with Olli Maatta replacing Jack Johnson alongside Kris Letang and Johnson back with Justin Schultz. Dumoulin’s normal spot is alongside Letang.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

This is the postseason, so no one connected with the club is likely to tip their hand. Neither Dumoulin nor Aston-Reese spoke with reporters.

Here’s what the lines and pairings looked like:

Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust

Jared McCann-Evgeni Malkin-Patric Hornqvist

Dominik Simon-Nick Bjugstad-Phil Kessel

Teddy Blueger-Matt Cullen-Garrett Wilson/Zach Aston-Reese

Olli Maatta-Kris Letang

Jack Johnson-Justin Schultz

Marcus Pettersson-Erik Gudbranson

Brian Dumoulin-Zach Trotman

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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

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Joshua Witcher

    April 10, 2019 at 12:01 am

    Just bloody disgusting to see our 3rd line if that is indeed the case. Sullivan’s favoritism over obvious, better options will continue to keep this team from enhancing a 3rd cup in 4 years
    Like all of the sudden taking Kessel off Geno’s line as if Kessel didn’t already have enough going on in his head. Or the whole Brian Rust being gifted a first line spot. He’s done absolutely nothing to deserve it… either time he was gifted the spot. And while he went on a hot streak earlier in the year, most goals came as a beneficiary of being with Sid and Jake. Coupled with the fact that he broke up the hottest line in hockey at the time and a player who gelled with the top line even better, in Jared McCann…And Dominic Simon in our top 9. A player who has spent the entire season in the top 9, and nearly half of those games in the top 6 playing with the 2 greatest centers of this generation and having only EIGHT FREAKING GOALS is beyond ludicrous. Beyond.
    Especially when we heard time and time again for the first 2 and a half months of the season how a player has to earn his opportunity. So our best prospect was given 4 minutes of time on the 4th line and was at fault for not producing. None of our “awesome” reporters further questioned the impossibility of such a task, but even more ridiculous, they bought it hook line and sinker. Yet none of them pointing out the massive hypocrisy and evidence against manifesting itself in Rust and Simon.
    Look, Sullivan isn’t Byslma because Sullivan can actually coach.. but this is the type of behavior, the favorites, stubbornness and arrogance…the treating the team as if doing what he, and only he wants is the primary goal and players whom he has an issue with that can help the team are shipped out using the Pittsburgh press to justify his bidding. So he replaces those with his favorites thus making the team weaker rather than suck up his ego and learn to find a way to work with all players rather than ones who aren’t afraid to speak their minds….
    All of these cracks eventually widened on Bylsma and he was exposed as a poor coach.
    Again, I don’t see Sullivan as a poor coach but I do see a team who doesn’t play hard for their coach. Who takes nights and shifts off….
    And this team that I love sure as heck won’t get to see the cup return to Pittsburgh this year or any other year with Sullivan behind the bench. Just won’t happen unfortunately.

    • Sean Rainey

      April 12, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Spot on

  2. RobertU

    April 10, 2019 at 8:16 am

    LOL.

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