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At the Rink blog

Jokinen slotted into Crosby's spot as top-line center

Friday, 04.05.2013 / 1:19 PM

By Chris Adamski - NHL.com Correspondent / 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

PITTSBURGH -- Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz lost the player they call the best in the world as their center. But the Pittsburgh Penguins wings insist they won't change their games as a result.

Dupuis and Kunitz will play their third game without Sidney Crosby on Friday against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). The team traded for former Carolina Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen on Wednesday, and coach Dan Bylsma said he will slot Jokinen between Kunitz and Dupuis while Crosby is out indefinitely because of a broken jaw.

The trio got a crash course in playing together during the morning skate Friday.

"There's obviously a little adjustment period, but me and [Dupuis], we're going to play the same style," Kunitz said. "We're not ad libbing a whole bunch. We're going to be in certain areas and putting pucks in certain places. As soon as we get a feel for each other, we're going to have success."

Kunitz and Dupuis have had plenty of that this season. Kunitz's 20 goals are tied with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for the fourth-most in the NHL. Dupuis is second in the League in even-strength goals with 15.

No one is expecting Jokinen to replace the production of Crosby, who holds an eight-point lead in the NHL scoring race. But Jokinen is a versatile former 30-goal scorer who has experience playing with talented linemates.

"He's obviously really skilled," Dupuis said of Jokinen. "He makes some plays and he seems really excited to be here.

"Sid's the best player in the game, obviously, but when you play with a team like the Penguins, you do have great centers one through four, so it doesn't matter who we play with -- we play one way," Dupuis said. "It's not like we have to change our game for the guys going to be in the middle. There are little tendencies here and there, but we play one way -- Chris and I play a north-south game, a forecheck game, creating turnovers. We don't go east-west and try to dangle people and beat guys 1-on-1. It's almost straight-line hockey."

Jokinen laughed at the suggestion he is replacing Crosby, but did say he's always admired the games of Kunitz and Dupuis after years of playing against them.

"Two really great hockey players," Jokinen said. "The best thing for them is they work hard, that's the biggest thing. For me to be on their line, just work really hard, create turnovers and get chances like that -- and try to bury a couple."

If the morning skate line rushes are any indication, Tanner Glass is keeping his spot in the lineup. Bylsma said it was too early to use Jokinen in a penalty-killing role (save for perhaps a big faceoff in the left dot), so Glass will be needed to kill penalties.

That would leave Dustin Jeffrey and Joe Vitale the odd men out in the Pittsburgh lineup.

Defenseman Mark Eaton joined the team for the morning skate and said he was fine after missing the game Wednesday at Madison Square Garden because of illness.

Here is the Penguins' likely lineup Friday (click here to see what the Rangers' lineup will look like):

Chris Kunitz - Jussi Jokinen - Pascal Dupuis

James Neal - Evgeni Malkin - Jarome Iginla

Brenden Morrow - Brandon Sutter - Matt Cooke

Tanner Glass - Craig Adams - Tyler Kennedy

Brooks Orpik - Mark Eaton

Douglas Murray - Matt Niskanen

Deryk Engelland - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tomas Vokoun

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Vitale

Injured: Sidney Crosby (jaw), Kris Letang (lower body), Paul Martin (hand)

Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild