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'Itz Staal Good

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins as a whole have been coming to work every night and keep finding ways to win.

With that being said, the line of Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy should be taking home ‘Employee of the Month’ honors with their play as of late.

The trio has combined for a staggering nine goals and 21 points over the last four games, helping Pittsburgh to a 3-1 record over that span with their blue-collar style of play that has kept the Penguins in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think all three of us know we’re not very flashy players, we like to grind it out and play a physical game and create room for each other,” Staal said. “I think that’s a big reason why our line is doing well.”

Head coach Dan Bylsma delved into his archives of line combinations when he chose to pair the three forwards together in Kunitz’s first game back on March 8 after missing 13-straight games due to injury.

Bylsma cited the success Kunitz had playing on a line with Staal for a short stretch of games when he first arrived in Pittsburgh in Feb. 2009, calling them “a good fit.”

And since Staal and Kennedy have built a solid chemistry playing together, and as roommates on the road, for the better part of two seasons, it seemed worth a shot to place Kunitz on the left wing of that line.

It couldn’t be working out better.

 “’Staalsy’ and I have been together for a while and ‘Kunie’ is a pretty easy guy to play with,” Kennedy said. “He works hard and does the right things, so it’s pretty good.”

The three players have produced results with their penchant for controlling the puck in the offensive zone, their willingness to play in the dirty areas and their adaptability.

“We all don’t mind being in the corners, we’ll all kind of play the three positions in forward,” Kunitz said. “If we need to be a net-front guy, that guy will go there. I think we’re all just willing to fill in the spot that someone’s not there.”

It may have taken them a couple of games to start clicking. But as Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones once sang, “If you start me up, I’ll never stop” – and that’s what this line plans on doing in the final 10 games of the regular season.

“We work well together,” Kunitz said. “Staal is a horse that can take the puck anywhere on the ice. ‘TK’ is great down low, (can) move the puck and go east-west. It’s nice that we can compliment each other when we’re out there and put pucks to the right areas. It’s nice to be successful.”

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