Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan held a conference call with the media. Here is a transcript of that conversation.
On balancing desire with reinserting Evgeni Malkin into the lineup and the desire for continuity: That’s going to be one of the challenges moving forward. We did a little more juggling of lines (in Game 2) than I have in the past. We’ll settle into something so that there is more continuity. With ‘Geno’ in the lineup, as I’ve said all along, when the time came to put him back in the lineup it would provide options for us as far as how we’ve used guys. The coaching staff had a long meeting this morning about our lines and combinations and what we think is best moving forward. That’s certainly one of the challenges that we’re faced with. We feel as though it was a good challenge for us because we have a player in our lineup that we think can certainly help us win and makes us a better team.
On why he think Malkin and Sidney Crosby can work on the same line: I’m not sure that they haven’t worked together in the past. I know that they’ve played together at times in the past and at times they’ve been apart. We should have the ability to do both, play them together at times and play them apart at times. They seem to work extremely well on the power play together. When Geno was in the lineup prior to getting hurt our power play was, for probably a 5- or 6-week span, was at 30-percent plus. I’m not one of those guys that throws an opinion around just because they’ve been used at times together in the past and certain people think it will work or it won’t work. I believe that two very good players have the ability to play with anybody and adapt their game accordingly because of their talent. Having said that, I’m not convinced that I’ll use them together moving forward. That’s something that is an option for us. If we do choose to go that route, there’s no reason why two players that are as good as they are cannot work together. They’re two elite players that think the game on a high level, and they have the ability to play a down low game and a fast, speed game off of the rush. That’s really the way I look at it. I know there’s been different schools of thought, theories in the past of how these guys have been used. Another comment that I would have is that I think both of these guys are in a different place than they were in the previous years. They’re a little bit older. They have more experience under their belt. They probably have the benefit of a little bit more perspective because they’ve gone through different experiences. We all learn from our experiences. For me, that’s how you gain wisdom. I think these guys from a mindset standpoint are in a very different place than they have been in the past.
On his assessment of Bryan Rust’s play in Game 2: I think ‘Rusty’ is being a little hard on himself. I thought his play was fine. He brings an element of speed to our team. I think that was evident. He was strong on the boards. He ends up with a breakaway coming out of the penalty box. For me, he had a positive impact on the game. My hope is that with each game he gets under his belt that he’ll get his timing down. He’ll get more comfortable and his confidence level will improve to the point where he will have more of a positive impact on the game, from our standpoint. One of the things that I really like about Rusty is that he really wants to win. When things don’t go the way we want our team to go, he’s one of the first guys that looks in the mirror. That’s one of the great things about him.
On his decision breakup Justin Schultz and Ian Cole: I explained my logic last night at the press conference on why we chose to go with the defensemen that we chose. I think Ian Cole has played a lot of solid hockey over the last few months for us. When we put him with Justin we thought they were a decent pair. (Cole) has played with other guys along the way. He’s played a solid game as well. I don’t necessarily think the only way Ian Cole can play a good game for us is if he has Justin Schultz as his partner. As I said last night, we felt as though we needed some defending defensemen in our lineup that would provide compliments to the other guys that we have. I think that with Geno being put back in the lineup and using him on that first power-play unit with four forward there isn’t as much of an emphasis on having a power-play defenseman per se. That was certainly taken into consideration when we made that lineup decision. As I said last night, nothing is etched in stone here. If we are displeased with any of our defensemen, we just have to make a lineup decision. We’re going to put guys in our lineup, each and every night, that we believe give us the best chance to win. That’s some of the rational that the coaching staff discussed when putting in those six defensemen in the lineup for last night’s game.