Connect with us

Penguins

Is It Possible? Projecting a Healthy Penguins Lineup

Published

on

Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

Maybe, possibly, at some point, the Pittsburgh Penguins might have a full boat and a healthy roster. In the first 35 games of the season, the Penguins played two periods with anything resembling a healthy roster. Space around the trainer’s table was standing room only. But the cavalry is coming.

Sidney Crosby has been skating and could return soon after the holiday break, if not Friday in Nashville. Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bjugstad have also been skating. Justin Schultz is out week-to-week but is prognosis is not dire. He too could return before early January.

Without Crosby, the Penguins persevered with an 11-5-3 record, including their four-game win streak which Vancouver ended on Saturday night.

Of course, projecting the Penguins healthy lineup is a dangerous business. As the Penguins are set to get significant players back, the current healthy crop should watch their back. The hockey gods have an evil sense of humor.

However, with Crosby and this version of engaged, determined Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins will suddenly vault into Eastern Conference power. The goaltending is another strength as Tristan Jarry leads the NHL in save percentage (.939), goals against average (1.86), and is T-1 with three shutouts.

The difficult and perhaps temporary decisions regarding Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad will shape the Penguins lines. There is also the matter of who gets custody of Jake Guentzel (Yay, two Christmases!).

Bryan Rust will not continue on his point-per-game pace, but his chemistry with Malkin and Guentzel has been spectacular, too. Rust has 25 points (13g, 12a) in 22 games. Malkin has 31 points (9g, 22a) in just 23 games.

As always, head coach Mike Sullivan will mix and match lines on a revolving basis as players ebb and flow. The lines and depth chart also do not assume any trades, which may or may not happen.

Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:

McCann-Crosby-Kahun

Guetnzel-Malkin-Rust

Simon-Bjugstad-Hornqvist

Aston-Reese–Blueger–Tanev

Healthy scratch: Alex Galchenyuk. Returned to AHL: Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi

Reasons: The Simon-Bjugstad-Hornqvist line was spectacular last season. It sputtered in limited action this season, but now we know Bjugstad was dealing with a serious injury.

After a great start to the season, Dominik Simon has gone ice cold. We’re talking Planet Hoth cold (real Star Wars reference).

From this seat, it is tough to break up Malkin-Guentzel. As Sullivan juggles lines, look for Rust to play with Crosby and Hornqvist to play with Malkin. Also, Galchenyuk will get a last chance, too. He could draw in for Simon beside Bjugstad.

Pivotal Decision: Could McCann stay at center? Sullivan’s comments on Friday night were insightful. He said center is McCann’s natural position but also acknowledged McCann is an offensive threat on the wing.

“What we like about Jared on the wing are his speed and his scoring ability,” Sullivan said. “He’s got a pretty good straight-ahead game. He can take defensemen wide. He can get separation. And, when he gets that separation, he can finish.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins defense will need help as Brian Dumoulin will not return until mid-February. The Penguins will have an abundance of right-handed defensemen and we could see more of the righty-righty Kris Letang-John Marino pairing, which isn’t necessarily best for players or team but becomes a necessary evil.

Perhaps Juuso Riikola will get a sweater as a third pairing left-side defenseman to play with Marino, but Riikola was unsteady on Saturday night and coaches seem to prefer four righties with Chad Ruhwedel over Riikola.

So, have at it! The comments are open below. Project the Penguins lineup when they get healthy in the coming weeks.

Subscribe to PHN+

Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

13 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
jgregg23
jgregg23
2 years ago

Crosby always elevates the players he plays with. If Kahun and McCann can mesh with him (McCann did last year and Kahun has shown to have some good skills) that would make our 1-2 lines very dangerous. I love the fourth line. The third line is where I have the most skepticism that it can be good enough to win another Cup. Bjukstad and Simon just can’t finish. Their shot accuracy is the problem and that’s not going away. Too bad Galchenyuk hasn’t panned our. He could play with Sid, McCann could drop to 3C, Bjukstad could be trade bait… Read more »

Randal L
Randal L
2 years ago

I agree with everything except for Sending Lafferty to ahl. I believe we need some youth and enthusiasm and he has earned it. McCann needs to stay at center and Bjugstad and Galyenchuk need to go. I’m not sold on Pettersson long term not for 4 million. Maybe move the forwards for more D I do think Jarry is coming on to win #1 goalie job.This leaves the door open to trading a goalie in the future. I’m willing to wait for Pettersson to mature but right now he looks like a new born deer struggling to stay on his… Read more »

Dan
Dan
2 years ago

I know it’s beating an old old drum but how long can Simon continue to add nothing accept the precious puck possession

Del Scott
Del Scott
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan

So you would rather not have possession of the puck or you accept possessing the puck is a good thing?

Pauldia
Pauldia
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan

He can continue to add nothing as long as Sullivan remains stubborn to reality and values analytics over the smell test.

JICS
JICS
2 years ago

I’d like Jake back with Sid, where he belongs, (speaking of chemistry), and since Rust plays well with Jake, maybe he could come, too. But I’d actually prefer McCann with Sid and Jake. That would be a powerful first line combo! Malkin can go back with whoever he was with before Sid got hurt, or some of the new guys. He actually likes a workhorse like Tanev, and Sullivan seems to like that for him, too.

Pauldia
Pauldia
2 years ago

Simon has gone cold Dan. It’s reality, 3 years do not lie , you just do not want to believe your lying eyes. Us Yinzers don’t get it . Do you still think Simon is a 40 point player. As I said he is a borderline NHL talent. Lafferty should stay . Simon gots to go.

Dan
Dan
2 years ago

Ok changing the subject from Simon….give me your one player you would like to see the Penguins acquire for the second half…be realistic and it’s only one player assuming everyone else is healthy…My vote goes to Kyle Palmieri would love to see him with Syd he knows the Metro and plays hard every night…and not only can he possess the puck but he can SCORE

Paul Katz
Paul Katz
2 years ago

I don’t know,…..this team has a big void in the physicality department. Two games in February vs Washington will be telling . Hathaway,Wilson,and Gudas will take liberties and possibly injure a Penguin. With the trading of Reaves and now Gudbranson,the Penguins lack any deterrent at all. So with that in mind perhaps a Michael Ferland or Wayne Simmonds,or someone else. Pittsburgh will not got past Washington without adding some physicality,and it must be a legit deterrent.

Dan
Dan
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Katz

Paul I do like your thought process… Only exception is Ferland is one concussion away from being out for the year also I’m not sure Simmons would be a fit here… I do like KASSIAN though from Edmonton not sure he would be available though… I do have a feeling they are going to move a forward for a physical defenseman though

Paul Katz
Paul Katz
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan

I think I’d rather have Darnell Nurse from Edmonton than Kassian. IDK the contract situations.

Billy Rof
Billy Rof
2 years ago

Simon needs to be traded, I never saw a guy produce so less and get so much ice time. Galyenchuk has real talent and has proved he can score. But this coach pushes him to the third and 4th lines. I thought a coach was to put his players in position to succeed. The guy was hurt, coming to a new team, new system, and you don’t give him a real shot at the top lines. I don’t want to hear he had his chance. Put him with geno or sid for 20 games at least. Put him on the… Read more »

Billy Rof
Billy Rof
2 years ago

I think Simon needs to be traded, I never saw a guy produce so less and get so much ice time. Galyenchuk has real talent and has proved he can score. But this coach pushes him to the third and 4th lines. I thought a coach was to put his players in position to succeed. The guy was hurt, coming to a new team, new system, and you don’t give him a real shot at the top lines. I don’t want to hear he had his chance. Put him with geno or sid for 20 games at least. Put him… Read more »