Bryan Rust’s middle name could be Versatility. He can play either wing, on any line. He kills penalties. But the Pittsburgh Penguins forward had been looking for something else – to be called a consistent reliable teammate this season.
Rust, playing on the top line Saturday with Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon, had an assist, three shots and a hit in a 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes at PPG Paints Arena. Not a superstar-caliber stat line, but Rust’s overall strong game left him feeling good about himself.
“This was a confidence-builder,” Rust said. “This is one for me that I can build on. I haven’t necessarily had the start I wanted, but I think this is a game I can look back on and see it positively and just try to build on it.”
Rust has just four points – a goal and three assists – in 15 games. What’s more, he had gone six games without a point before Saturday.
His helper against the Coyotes was a nice set-up pass to Simon in the second period for the Penguins’ second goal. Rust centered the puck at just the right time, with just the right amount of juice so that Simon could deflect it from the slot past Arizona goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
“I thought it was a great play and it’s great for him,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Everybody wants to contribute. These guys really care. They’re a great group of individuals. For a guy like Rusty he puts a lot of pressure on himself to contribute to this group. He made a real nice heads-up play on the goal. It was great all around, but Rusty made a nice play.”
“He’s playing great,” he said of Rust. “I love to play with him. He’s working hard. He can make plays. The play when he found me there, he made it real easy for me. It was a really nice play from him.”
As befitting his versatility, Rust has played in a few different spots this season, but he enjoyed playing with Crosby and Simon.
“The way our line played the whole night – we were skating, we were making plays, we had some chances,” he said.