When the Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Ottawa on Thursday, their lines will look a little different.
The John LeClair-Sidney Crosby-Mark Recchi line will stay intact, but the rest will be shuffled. Mario Lemieux and Ryan Malone will stay in Pittsburgh when the Penguins travel to the Corel Centre at 7:30 p.m. The defensive corps will have one obvious omission, too – Dick Tarnstrom.
“We have some guys with some nagging injuries, so we pulled a couple of guys out of the lineup (Thursday) night that were going to play,” Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. “We’re not going to send them up to Ottawa and I think they are questionable for Washington (on Friday). Ryan Malone is a little nicked up right now and so is Dick Tarnstrom.
“I liked the way those guys played (Tuesday) night. It’s a positive the way they played,” he continued. “It’s nothing too serious. We want to make sure they are getting what they need off the ice and making sure they are feeling fine.”
Likewise, Lemieux will stay in Pittsburgh for the Penguins’ trip to Ottawa and Friday’s game at Washington. Lemieux racked up three assists and a goal in the Penguins’ 7-2 drubbing of Columbus. However, Olczyk wants to remain cautious with the 39-year-old Lemieux.
“Just his presence alone in the way he is moving and what he does in the workout room, it doesn’t surprise me at all what he did,” Olczyk said. “We were talking in the morning skate (Tuesday) and he felt when he was up in Wilkes-Barre that he just didn’t have that step he had when he was skating earlier in training camp. I wouldn’t say he felt sluggish, but he just didn’t have that step he had earlier in camp.
“Hey, the guy is getting up to that age where it takes a little bit longer to get going,” he continued. “Going out (Tuesday) night and having the night that he did – maybe it was just the ride up there or only playing every couple days. It doesn’t surprise me that he is feeling much better and skating very well and doing everything we ask. When you have your best players working as hard as everybody else, that bodes well for everyone.”
Nevertheless, Malone’s absence shouldn’t cost him a spot on the top line with Ziggy Palffy and Lemieux.
“No, not at all,” Olczyk said with a laugh. “He fit very nicely there.”
The Lemieux-Malone-Palffy line cashed in for a pair of even-strength goals Tuesday night. They clicked in the one period in which they were together as a unit in Pittsburgh’s exhibition loss to Ottawa on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre.
“I talked to Mario quite a bit about the different possibilities, but when you think about Ryan, Mario and Ziggy together – there is a lot of ability there obviously with Mario drawing the attention,” Olczyk said. “For as great as a goal-scorer as Ziggy is, people don’t realize he’s such a good playmaker and such a good passer. Ryan can fit in, bang bodies and score goals and do all the other things that bring it together. It was only one night and a period because I played them together a little bit in our previous game against Ottawa. I was really pleased with the way they played.”
The LeClair-Crosby-Recchi line produced an even-strength goal Tuesday night and has played well throughout the preseason.
“I was really happy with the way Recchi, Johnny and Sid played together,” Olczyk said. “They created. They had some great chances. They only got the one goal, but when you play down in the other team’s end, that’s certainly a positive.”
Olczyk refuses to label either line as his No. 1.
“Absolutely not,” he said with a grin. “Absolutely not.”
Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal for the Penguins against the Senators. Others dressing include: defensemen Steve Poapst, Noah Welch, Ryan Whitney, Ric Jackman, Lyle Odelein and Sergei Gonchar; forwards Matt Hussey, Rico Fata, Lasse Pirjeta, Matt Murley, Colby Armstrong, Maxime Talbot, Ryan VandenBussche, Erik Christensen, Recchi, LeCLair, Palffy and Crosby and goaltender Sebastien Caron.