After three straight losses, the Pittsburgh Penguins apparently could be considering changes in their forward lines for a game Saturday against the Canucks in Vancouver. Specifically noteworthy was winger Kasperi Kapanen moving down to the third line for part of their practice session.
The Penguins practiced Friday evening, Eastern time, in Vancouver.
Kapanen has five goals, 14 points in 23 games this season, but he has seemed ineffective on the second line with Jason Zucker and Jeff Carter lately, with one goal in his past 10 games.
According to multiple reports from Vancouver, the Penguins’ top line combination of Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Evan Rodrigues remained the same. The bottom three lines at first looked like this:
Jason Zucker-Jeff Carter-Danton Heinen
Drew O’Connor-Teddy Blueger-Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese–Sam Lafferty-Dominik Simon
Later, the Zucker-Carter-Kapanen line was reunited, with the bottom two lines consisting of Brock McGinn-Blueger-Heinen and Aston-Reese–O’Connor-Simon.
Whether that is the coaching staff’s way of keeping people guessing or taking a long look at new lines remains to be seen.
“We’re just trying to find more balance among the forwards so we can generate more offense throughout the lineup,” coach Mike Sullivan said after practice.
Sullivan said Kapanen “needs to play his game. His speed is such an important aspect of his game. I think he’s got to challenge our opponents all over the rink with his speed. When he does that, I think he’s a very dangerous player. He tends to look to pass the puck a little bit more than we’d like. We’d like to see him shoot more often. He’s got a really good shot. And then just — and Kappy and I have had this conversation — creating offense in different ways.”
Most recently, the Penguins lost Wednesday at Edmonton as they make their way across Western Canada. Vancouver, at 8-14-2, should not be as imposing an opponent as Conor McDavid and the Oilers, or Calgary, which topped the Penguins Monday.
Still, it would seem the Penguins will need to find some scoring pop and rely a little less on goaltender Tristan Jarry to break out of their losing streak and start piling up some points.
All expected players were on the ice in Vancouver, but it doesn’t appear that center Brian Boyle is poised to return from injury. He has been listed as day to day.
Center Evgeni Malkin again practiced, again in a non-contact jersey, as he keeps moving toward a return from offseason knee surgery.
— Josh Getzoff (@PensJG) December 3, 2021