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Hornqvist Keeps It Simple Regardless of Linemates

by Mark Madden / 105.9 the X

In the Penguins' first game, Patric Hornqvist skated on a line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.

In the Penguins' second game, Hornqvist played with Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann. But injuries moved McCann to center, so Hornqvist played with still more different linemates.

But, regardless of whom he's on a line with, Hornqvist plays like Hornqvist: Lots of grit, no nonsense, and go to the front of the net.

That ethos has served the Swedish right wing well over his 12-year NHL career, and it served him well Saturday night when he knocked in two goals in a 7-2 defeat of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The goals were vintage Hornqvist: A deflection right in front to make it 2-0 4:14 into the second period, and a short wrist shot on a scintillating feed from Crosby to make it 6-2 at 9:50 of the third. (Yes, Hornqvist ended up back on that line for a bit. Guentzel got the other assist.)

"I just keep it simple. Don't overthink it," Hornqvist said when asked about the line switch. "Play the right way and play your game.

"We're all 20 different guys in here, and we bring different things to the table. I know what I'm good at, and that's what I'm going to try to do every single night to help my teammates win."

Hornqvist's stats dipped a bit last season. He was frequently banged up, posting 18 goals, 19 assists and a minus-3 mark in 69 games.

But, after the Penguins were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Hornqvist jump-started himself at the IIIHF World Championships in Slovakia. Hornqvist had seven goals and three assists in eight games as Sweden advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Finland 5-4 in overtime.

Hornqvist, 32, succeeded as he always does: By going to the front of the net.

In the win over Columbus, Hornqvist's style was facilitated when his teammates put lots of pucks in or near the blue paint.

"That's huge for me, obviously," Hornqvist said. "I spend a lot of time there.

"But at the same time, it means we're getting shots through, and we're engaged in the game. That's exactly what we need."

Hornqvist's game usually sees him involved in a non-stop minor skirmish: When Hornqvist gets near the net, he's cross-checked, slashed, punched, pushed and bodied after nearly every whistle.

So Horrnqvist had plenty of respect for Sidney Crosby when the captain dropped the gloves (which he rarely does) to fight Pierre-Luc Dubois in the second period of the win over Columbus. Dubois had shouldered Guentzel in the head and cross-checked Crosby.

"You know how Sid is," Hornqvist said. "He's a tough guy and he always sticks up for his teammates. That's why he's the best captain in the league. It got the guys going after that. Sid was a big part of the win."

A lot went wrong in the Penguins' 3-1 opening night loss to Buffalo. A lot went right when they beat Columbus. Hornqvist hopes the Penguins are trending in the right direction.

"We played a good game [against Columbus] and it showed up on the scoreboard," said the 6-foot, 188-pounder. "Our effort was there, and we were committed to playing the right way. Obviously, when you get a couple of quick goals, it gives you confidence as a group."

The score was 0-0 after one period. But the Penguins got two goals in the first 4:14 of the second period.

"We did all the right things in the first period, too, but we didn't get the goals," Hornqvist said. "But when the goals start coming, you take a deep breath, relax a little bit more and play hockey."

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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