Pens tinker with lines again before hosting Edmonton – 93.7 The Fan

Pens tinker with lines again before hosting Edmonton – 93.7 The Fan

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Searching for more consistency, Pens switch up lines again with Bryan Rust back with Sidney Crosby before hosting Edmonton Tuesday night. The changes coming with two games left before the playoffs begin.
Here were the line combinations during a full morning skate Tuesday as head coach Mike Sullivan looks for the group that ‘gives them the best chance to win’:
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn-Evgeni Malkin-Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker-Jeff Carter-Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen-Teddy Blueger-Evan Rodrigues
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Mike Matheson-Chad Ruhwedel
Brian Boyle would be a healthy scratch if this holds up with Evan Rodrigues and Danton Heinen on the fourth line with Jason Zucker joining Kapanen on Jeff Carter’s third line.  Kapanen was the healthy scratch Sunday at Philadelphia.
“We believe Kapanen is a very capable player,” Sullivan said.  “He has the ability to be a difference-maker for us.  He’s shown that in some of his time here.  We’re hopeful that’s what we are going to get moving forward.”
“Kapanen is a really good player, I know he cares a lot.  I know it’s not from a lack of effort, care, try on his part.  We are trying to find a way to help him capture his best game.”
McGinn takes Zucker’s spot on the second line and Rakell drops back where most thought he would be after the trade, with Malkin.  That puts Rust again with Crosby and Guentzel.
“For me personally, I’m familiar with pretty much everyone that’s in the lineup,” Rust said.  “How they like to play.  What their strengths and weaknesses are.  Especially going back from Sid to Geno and visa versa, you just got to know what they bring.  Know how they like to play, but also play your own game.  Do what you do to be successful.”
Sullivan said part of the issue with running different line combinations is they haven’t had a healthy lineup and it’s been difficult to get extended looks with various combinations.
It’s been seven games since Bryan Rust registered a point and he has gone the entire month without an assist.  For the season, Rust has 24 goals and 34 assists in 58 games.
“Hockey is a funny game,” Rust said.  “There is a stretch where I came back from injury and had a gagillian points in a few games.  It’s kind of gone the other way recently.  That’s just how this game goes sometimes.”
“These next two games for me personally, confidence-wise are going to be big.  Not so much trying to get on the scoresheet, but just be playing well, playing fast and have my game at a high level.”
Oiler Power
It’s been three years since the Oilers have played in Pittsburgh.  They’re pretty good.  In the post-season for a third straight year with 98 points and currently in second place in the Pacific Division.
Edmonton led by the NHL’s leading scorer Connor McDavid with 43 goals and 118 points.  It’s the fifth 100-point season of the 25-year-old’s career.  That ties him with Mark Messier in Edmonton history and four behind Wayne Gretzky for number of three-digit scoring years.  Only Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk and Mario Lemieux had more before turning 26.
“We have to make sure we defend in numbers,” Sullivan said.  “That’s where angles, stick details and things of that nature come into play.  Without a doubt, he’s a big challenge to defend against because he’s so explosive.  He’s so dynamic with his speed and his ability to make plays at such a high level of speed.”
Their setup is similar to the Pens of the Stanley Cup championships with power down the middle.  Leon Draisaitl has 55 goals and 108 points and broke Gretzky’s team record in power play goals.  The 26-year-old Draisaitl had 24 with the extra man, the most The Great One had with the Oilers is 20.
“To watch players like McDavid and Draisaitl play against Crosby and Malkin, for a hockey enthusiast, it doesn’t get any better,” Sullivan said.  “These guys are special players.  The things they are able to do with the puck at the speed they are able to do it.  It’s exciting.”
The third line center is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who has 48 points and signed an eight-year contract extension in July.  Devin Shore is the fourth line center with former Penguin Derick Brassard often as one of his wingers.  Cody Ceci is also a third-pairing defenseman for Edmonton.
Stat to watch
Edmonton won the earlier meeting 5-2 in Canada.  The Oilers are 30-2-1 when scoring first.


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