It looks as if Kasperi Kapanen will have a place in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup when they face Carolina Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena.
He bumped Danton Heinen off the third line and the No. 2 power play during the team’s 45-minute workout at the Hunt Armory in Shadyside Monday.
And while Mike Sullivan declined to confirm that the switch will hold when the Penguins take on the Hurricanes — “As you know, all of our lineups are game-time decisions,” he said — Kapanen clearly expects to be in uniform then.
“It’s always fun to be in the lineup,” he said. “I’m just eager to get back out there, have a lot of energy and do what I can to help.”
Although he won’t publicly commit to using Kapanen Tuesday, Sullivan knows what he expects him to contribute when he plays.
“If (Kapanen) were to go in the lineup, we’d like him to be the player he’s capable of being,” he said. “Use his speed. He can challenge people with wide-speed. He can get inside the dots and get to the net. He can be strong in the battle areas. He can bring a two-way, conscientious game.”
Kapanen has been a healthy scratch for the past seven games, while Heinen — who skated alongside Chad Ruhwedel on the fourth defense pairing during the workout — has not scored a goal in the past 17.
Kapanen failed to get a goal in 12 consecutive games before leaving the lineup and has one goal and four assists in 13 appearances this season.
There is, he said, no upside to spending the past few weeks in street clothes, nothing he gleaned from observing games that he believes could work to his benefit.
“It’s never fun watching,” he said. “It’s just good to be back on the ice.”
Crosby: No, it wasn’t that
Sidney Crosby said he had an issue with his skates during the Penguins’ 4-1 loss to Toronto Saturday, but was adamant that it didn’t stem from him vigorously kicking the boards after an ill-considered line change led to a Maple Leafs goal 40 seconds into the first period.
“No, no, no,” he said after Monday’s practice.
Crosby then smiled broadly and added, “I don’t know what you’re talking about there. … It was prior to that.”
It is true that he seemed to have a problem with at least one of his skates during warmups.
“That happens,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate.”
Back to four forwards
The Penguins apparently have abandoned the idea, at least for now, of having two defensemen on the points of the No. 1 power-play unit.
As was the case during their second of their two power plays against Toronto, the Pittsburgh Penguins used Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin on the points of the top group, with Jeff Petry bumped back to the No. 2 group and Bryan Rust rejoining Jake Guentzel, Crosby, Malkin and Letang on the first unit.
“We could talk forever about the decision to go away from the four forwards we had,” Sullivan said. “I once had a college coach who told me that the best way to start with a power play is to start with your best five players, then figure it out from there. There might be something to be said for that.
“We believe in the group we have. We know we have some different combinations. We know we have some versatility there. Jeff Petry is a good power-play guy. Bryan Rust is a pretty good power-play guy.(Rickard Rakell) is a pretty good power-play guy. There are a lot of options there that we can go to.”
Spare goalie on hand
Emergency backup goalie Mike Chiasson participated in the practice, but not because Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith was injured or ill.
Rather, Sullivan said, the Pittsburgh Penguins simply are trying to manage the workload of their goaltenders.