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Penguins prepared to adjust lines to create matchups

Thursday, 04.17.2014 / 12:56 PM

By Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent / Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

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Penguins prepared to adjust lines to create matchups

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins lines could remain flexible throughout their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round will take place at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

Pittsburgh made several line adjustments during its 4-3 win in Game 1 on Wednesday, primarily to the wings on three of its lines. The Penguins swapped forwards Tanner Glass, who began the game as the third-line left wing, and Brian Gibbons under certain circumstances.

Entering the game, Pittsburgh planned to use Glass on the third line to match up against Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen's line and create a checking line. Gibbons was used to provide more speed to the line in an attempt to boost its offensive production.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said forwards Brandon Sutter and Lee Stempniak can be expected to play at third-line center and right wing, respectively.

Forward Beau Bennett, who played first-line right wing to begin the game, also played left wing on the third line. Sutter's game-winning goal was assisted by Bennett and defenseman Paul Martin.

With Bennett on the third line, Gibbons played with forwards Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz in a role he filled leading to the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline. Bylsma said similarities between Gibbons and forward Pascal Dupuis, who had season-ending ACL surgery, have led to Gibbons' opportunities with the first line.

"Flat-out, straight-away speed, I don't know where Brian would rank in the League, but I think he's the fastest guy on our team," Bylsma said. "Sid's a player that likes and needs his line and his linemates to force the other team with their speed and with getting on defensemen and being able to read off of that and read where the puck is going to go because of that speed.

"You see that with Pascal, and you certainly see that with Brian Gibbons as well."

Despite their Game 1 win, the Penguins were not satisfied with their performance. Defenseman Kris Letang had a disappointing outing after playing well in three games since returning from a stroke suffered in late January.

Letang committed two turnovers, one that led to a shorthanded goal by forward Derek MacKenzie, and two penalties, including a retaliatory slash against forward Boone Jenner in the second period and an interference call that cut a Pittsburgh power play short 11:33 into the third period.

"Kris is a guy that's targeted. I think going into a series, there are certain guys on the opposition that you're looking to put a dent on and go after and get a forecheck on and be physical, and Kris is one of those," Bylsma said. "I didn't like the response from Kris on the penalty he took on Jenner there and I think he got a message. Whether it was a voice, or not playing or a talk, he got a message.

"That's something he's got to be better at, and that's something we have to be better at, as a group."

After taking Thursday off, the Penguins will return to practice Friday morning. The Blue Jackets returned to Columbus for an optional practice Thursday, in which injured forward Nick Foligno participated.

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres