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At the Rink: Senators at Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Following a sluggish start to the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins will rework their power play entering their game Thursday against the Ottawa Senators.

Through its first three games, all regulation losses, Pittsburgh split forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin across two power-play units while failing to score on nine chances. It seems that tactic will be abandoned against Ottawa at Consol Energy Center, where Crosby and Malkin will reunite on the Penguins' top unit alongside defenseman Kris Letang and forwards Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist.

"We've had some chances," Crosby said. "The main thing is you're getting momentum and you're executing. The goals will come when you do that. We've done it in spurts, but I think there's a level of urgency that we can get to on our power play and 5-on-5."

Forward Chris Kunitz, who will stay to the left of Crosby and Kessel on Pittsburgh's top line at even strength, will play on the second power-play unit with forwards Nick Bonino, David Perron and Daniel Sprong and defenseman Ian Cole. The power play igniting could be necessary against Ottawa, which scored five unanswered goals on its way to a 7-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, despite being outshot 41-27.

"I think we're going to get going here eventually," Kessel said. "I think they've had a good start, they've built on from the end of last season. They're a good, fast team and they have some great players over there so it's a great contest."

The Penguins will face one setback with forward Beau Bennett missing his first game of the season. Bennett, arguably Pittsburgh's most impactful player with one goal on a team-leading six shots in its 3-2 loss Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens, was set to play in his 100th NHL game, at right wing on a line with Bonino at center and Sergei Plotnikov at left wing.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Bennett is injured and will be further evaluated, but did not disclose the injury. Pittsburgh did not hold line rushes during its morning skate.

Now in his fourth NHL season, Bennett never has played more than 49 games and has played in 26 or fewer in two of his first three seasons. He has 11 goals and 34 points in 99 games.

The Senators, who held an optional morning skate Thursday, announced goalie Craig Anderson will start for a second consecutive game after he made 38 saves against the Blue Jackets. Anderson has started three of the Senators' four games this season, going 3-0-0 with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.

Johnston said he's watched each of the Senators' four games and understands they will provide a significant test.

"In all three games they're a very dynamic team," Johnston said. "They're very explosive. They've got some young, talented skill in their lineup. Their defense are active on the rush. … They can push the pace and we have to be ready with probably our best transition game."

Here are the projected lineups:


Mike Hoffman - Kyle Turris - Mark Stone

Curtis Lazar - Mika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan

Milan Michalek - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Alex Chiasson

Chris Neil - Zack Smith - Shane Prince

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Cody Ceci - Patrick Wiercioch

Jared Cowen - Mark Borowiecki

Craig Anderson

Andrew Hammond

Injured: Chris Phillips (back), Clarke MacArthur (upper body)

Scratched: Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Patrick Wiercioch


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Phil Kessel

David Perron - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Sergei Plotnikov - Nick Bonino - Daniel Sprong

Bobby Farnham - Matt Cullen - Kevin Porter

Ian Cole - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Ben Lovejoy

Brian Dumoulin - Rob Scuderi

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Pascal Dupuis (lower body), Eric Fehr (elbow), Beau Bennett (undisclosed)

Scratched: Adam Clendening, Tim Erixon

Status report: Fehr participated in his first morning skate with Pittsburgh but remains unsure when he will return to the lineup. … MacArthur sustained an upper-body injury in the second period against Columbus. Prince will replace him and likely play on the Senators' fourth line.

Who's hot: Letang's second-period goal against the Canadiens tied the game 2-2. He leads the Penguins with 15 shots, three more than Kessel. … Karlsson's four assists against the Blue Jackets spurred the Senators' surge of five unanswered goals. He leads the Senators with seven points, all assists, in four games.

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