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Penguins' Comeau in top-line role vs. Islanders

by Wes Crosby

ISLANDERS (12-6-0) at PENGUINS (13-3-1)


PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a new-look top line against the New York Islanders, their first game since it was announced forward Pascal Dupuis will miss at least six months with a potentially career-ending blood clot in his lung.

Dupuis did not play against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday after skating at right wing alongside center Sidney Crosby and left wing Chris Kunitz in the previous two games. With him out of the lineup, forward Blake Comeau moved up from the fourth line to join Crosby and Kunitz.

Comeau said he will not attempt to replace Dupuis because that would be a difficult task.

"He was one of the guys who kind of took me under his wing," Comeau said. "He's such a big leader in the dressing room. He brings that work ethic, that grit, that hard style of play every game. So it's definitely tough shoes to fill."

Crosby said he expects Comeau to fit seamlessly as his right wing.

"I think every guy knows what they need to do, depending on what their role is," Crosby said. "And for [Comeau], he's a great skater. He has a great shot. He's hard on pucks. So I think the three of us should be able to turn some offense from creating turnovers, and we know [Kunitz] is going to be around the net. But with [Comeau's] speed I think he should be able to create a lot that way."

Penguins coach Mike Johnston said he anticipates forward Zach Sill, along with Crosby, Kunitz and Comeau, to replace Dupuis' penalty-killing minutes. The rest of Pittsburgh's lineup will remain virtually untouched.

Forward Patric Hornqvist, who played his first 14 games with Pittsburgh on the top line, will keep his spot next to center Evgeni Malkin and left wing Nick Spaling on the second line, where he has two assists in three games. Sill will re-enter the lineup as the fourth-line left wing.

Hornqvist said he has not been satisfied with how he has gelled with Malkin so far, but complimented Malkin and said he can tell they are making progress.

"I think we haven't really been clicking that much lately, but hopefully we can get it [Friday]," Hornqvist said.

Pittsburgh will face New York the next two nights in a home-and-home series, which Crosby said the Penguins are viewing as a Stanley Cup Playoff-like set of games. Pittsburgh leads the Islanders by three points in the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said goalie Chad Johnson will start Friday. He'll face Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Johnson, who was selected by Pittsburgh in the fifth round (No. 125) of the 2006 NHL Draft, will face the Penguins for the first time.

"Obviously they have Malkin and Crosby, they have lots of skill," Johnson said. "Not seeing them is an adjustment, but it is what it is. You can't really worry about who it is too much. You just have to play your game and stay focused and kind of stay together to kind of play strong."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Nikolay Kulemin

Mikhail Grabovski - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Anders Lee - Ryan Strome - Josh Bailey

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky

Chad Johnson

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Cory Conacher, Matt Donovan, Brian Strait

Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Michael Grabner (lower body)


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Blake Comeau

Nick Spaling - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Christian Ehrhoff

Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo

Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clot)

Status report: With a full complement of healthy defensemen for the first time this season, the Penguins played Despres alongside Scuderi in place of Bortuzzo against Montreal on Tuesday. Bortuzzo rotated with Despres on a pairing with Scuderi during the morning skate. … New York has three players on injured reserve, with Carkner and Grabner being placed on it in late September and Boulton being put on IR on earlier this month after playing three games.

Who's hot: Bennett had one goal and two assists Tuesday in his fourth game back from a knee injury that had sidelined him for the first 13 games of the season. … Okposo has four assists in his past three games and leads the Islanders with 13. His 18 points has him tied with Tavares and Nelson for the Islanders lead.

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