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Penguins left wing Kunitz could get spot on top line

by NHL.com Staff / NHL.com

Sidney Crosby might have to get used to a new right wing this season, but it looks like he's going to have a familiar face to his left on the Pittsburgh Penguins' top line.

Crosby's line with new right wing Phil Kessel and mainstay left wing Chris Kunitz combined for seven points in the Penguins' 7-3 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

After the game, Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Kunitz is a leading candidate to play on the top line with Crosby and Kessel, who scored two goals in his Penguins debut.

"[Kunitz] worked really well on that line, and what he has to add to that line -- whoever is going to play there and [Kunitz] is probably one of the leading candidates right now -- but I like [Kunitz] when he goes hard to the net, when he plays that straight-ahead game," Johnston told the Penguins website. "??? I think [Kunitz] will keep everybody in check there by going to the net hard, by driving through seams, and just creating space for those guys."

Kunitz, 35, had two assists against Carolina. Crosby had a goal and two assists.

Johnston liked what he saw from Kessel, who was acquired in a July 1 trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Two things that really stood out for me: One, [Kessel] hits holes off the puck really well," Johnston said. "So, if Kunitz gets the puck or Sid gets the puck, they turn and Kessel is already hitting an open spot. ??? If our guys can find him and get to read off of him. ... And then his speed in open ice; he's got dangerous speed. And everybody knows his shot. So the shot is something that we all knew, but I saw those other two things in his game and I thought that was probably as impressive as his quick-release shot."

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