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Fedotenko Gets His Shot With Sid

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden --- Back in July, Ruslan Fedotenko saw signing with the Penguins as an intriguing career opportunity. Little did he know he might have the chance to start the regular season on a line with Sidney Crosby.

But that’s the way they lined up at practice Monday – Fedotenko on left wing with Crosby at center and Miroslav Satan on the right side – and that’s the way they’ll start in the final pre-season game Thursday against Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League at Helsinki, Finland.

“We put (Fedotenko) on that line in the second half of our game in Toronto last Friday, and I liked what I saw, liked their chemistry,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “So we’re going to have them practice together, and we’ll try it again on Thursday. I think it’s a good combination.”

Therrien stopped short of committing to the Fedotenko-Crosby-Satan line for the NHL regular season opener Saturday against Ottawa in Stockholm, but it’s clear that if the three diverse forwards continue to adjust and play well together, he’ll continue to roll them out there.

Crosby, 21, is the best player in the sport, a guy who’s averaged 1.38 points per game in his brief but brilliant career, and a dynamic playmaker who led the NHL in scoring and assists during last year’s playoff run. Satan, 33, is a clever stickhandler and proven sniper who has scored at least 25 goals in nine of his 12 NHL seasons, including 35 in 2005-06 for the New York Islanders. Fedotenko, 29, nicknamed “Tank,” plays an honest game and drives to the net and has shown a knack for scoring big goals – though he hasn’t always had a chance to fill that role.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Fedotenko has scored at least 16 goals in six of his seven NHL seasons, including a career-high 26 in 2005-06 with Tampa Bay. His best sustained stretch came during the 2004 playoffs, when he scored 12 goals in 22 games and helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup, notching the winning goal in the clinching game.

And so there’s a chance that his style, energy and talent could make him a perfect fit with Crosby and Satan.

“They put us together Friday and we played well, so hopefully we’re going to be able to stick with this line,” Fedotenko said after practice Monday at the Hovet Arena. “Sometimes it takes a little while to get used to playing with new players, but so far this has been an easy transition.”

Ironically, Fedotenko and Satan were teammates for one season with the Islanders – both having decided, independently, to sign one-year free agent contracts with the Penguins this summer. They didn’t play together on any sort of a regular basis on the Island, although Fedotenko said they were paired occasionally and know each other’s games.

As for Crosby? “He’s such a great player,” Fedotenko said. “So fast. So smart. You go to the net and he gets you the puck. I think anyone would want the chance to play with him.”

As a result, the Penguins will head into the Helsinki game with two fascinating scoring lines – Evgeni Malkin centering for Jordan Staal and Petr Sykora, as well as Fedotenko-Crosby-Satan.

Pascal Dupuis, who had started camp on Crosby’s left wing, will likely to take his speed and grit to a third line with Max Talbot and Matt Cooke. The Penguins then have numerous options for a fourth forward unit with Tyler Kennedy, Jeff Taffe, Eric Godard, Bill Thomas, Janne Pesonen and Paul Bissonnette.

Could things change? Certainly. Line shuffling is a way of life in the new NHL. But a successful outing Thursday by Crosby, Satan and Fedotenko could go a long way toward solidifying the Penguins’ line combinations for the start of the regular season.

“It’s just a matter of adjusting to each other, talking, and figuring things out together,” Crosby said. “That’s a part of the challenge of this game. But it can be fun figuring things out.”

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