The Pittsburgh Penguins lineup has frequently had new faces and new players in new roles. Wednesday night, the Penguins got their first look at their trade deadline acquisitions, Patrick Marleau, Conor Sheary, and Evan Rodrigues. For the Penguins, dealing with new faces is entirely nothing new. Whether the fresh face was an AHL call up or an existing player pressed into a new role, injuries forced the Penguins to deal with newbies nearly all season.
Of course, there were those two periods back in November when the Penguins were healthy. Good times.
Monday, the Penguins added forward depth and took a stab at upgrading Sidney Crosby’s line with former, now current Penguins winger Sheary. In the same deal which brought Sheary back to the Penguins, the team also acquired the fourth-line forward Rodrigues.
The big Penguins prize on Monday was 40-year-old Patrick Marleau, who was acquired for his responsible, speedy play as much as his locker room presence.
The new guys dropped into the middle of the worst Penguins stretch of the season. The Penguins 2-1 loss to the LA Kings on Wednesday night was their season-worst fourth loss in a row.
“Those guys were great. You can see what made them successful players in the league,” Bryan Rust said. “Obviously, a lot of us are real familiar with Conor, and even playing against Patty in the playoffs. We know how good he’s been for so long.”
Marleau played nearly 14:29 and was a prominent figure on the Penguins checking line with center Teddy Blueger and the energetic Brandon Tanev. Marleau had just one shot on goal, but three near misses, two hits, and a blocked shot.
The Blueger line with Marleau had an impressive 75% Corsi, created eight scoring chances, and didn’t yield any (8-0), according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
“It was fun. We played really fast. a lot of support all over the ice,” Marleau said. “So, we had quite a few chances tonight. I would have liked a better outcome, obviously. I liked the way we took the play to them.”
If you watched the Penguins game late Wednesday and saw a new No. 18, you may have wondered who else was new. Penguins winger Dominik Simon was not only dropped from the Penguins top-line for Sheary but also Simon gave up his No. 12 sweater to Marleau and donned No. 18. Simon had four shots and created several turnovers in just over seven minutes of ice time, but he doesn’t count as one of the new guys.
The Penguins fourth line center was Rodrigues, who played just short of eight minutes, including 1:11 shorthanded. Rodrigues didn’t have a shot or a hit but won four of five faceoffs (80%).
“Rodrigues came in, and you can see how hard he works, his wheels, and he plays that team game,” Rust said.
Sheary replaced Simon on the Penguins top line with Sidney Crosby. The line had a steady diet of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Alex Iafalo. While the Penguins line had a slight statistical victory, they were on the ice and didn’t backcheck when Trevor Lewis scored the game-winning goal late in the second period.
Sheary played over 18 minutes, had one shot on goal, one blocked, and missed once. He was also immediately put on the Penguins second power-play unit and even spent some time in front of the net on PP2.
It is Sheary’s second go-round with the Penguins, and he already has two Stanley Cup rings with the team. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan counted on Sheary’s familiarity and handed the small winger big responsibilities on his first game.
“I thought they were really good. I thought all three of them had a positive impact on the game. So, it’s going to give us some options moving forward, but I thought their first game, they looked really strong.”
For the Penguins new guys, it has been a whirlwind week. Sheary and Rodrigues had to scurry from Buffalo to LA, though for a chance to join the playoff race.
‘I was obviously excited. There was a lot of anxiety that went into (Monday) just waiting for a phone call. When I found out it was (Pittsburgh), I was super excited,” Sheary said. “I get to come back to a familiar place, familiar faces, and I think it’s an easy transition for me.”
Rodrigues was also excited. He reportedly requested a trade out of Buffalo in December, but that doesn’t make the craziness any easier. For Marleau, he said goodbye to the San Jose Shark, an organization for which he played 20 years and over 1500 games. Marleau had 518 goals and 1102 points in the famous San Jose teal.
But San Jose agreed to deal the stalwart to free him for one more shot at the Stanley Cup. The Penguins compensated San Jose for their generosity with at least a third-round pick next year. The pick will upgrade to a second-rounder if Patrick Marleau and the Penguins do lift the Stanley Cup.
“It’s good to shut the brain off and good to get on the ice. It was racing before that,” Marleau said. “It felt pretty good on the ice tonight. The guys are all easy to play with, so it makes it easy. They’re talking out there, so it helps.”