SAN JOSE, California – The Pens reshuffled their forward lines for Monday’s practice at SAP Center, and one line in particular had a familiar look.
The trio of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis were back together, again. The three forwards have played a lot together over the past several years.
“It’s a new line, but it’s not really a new line,” Crosby said. “There shouldn’t be much of an adjustment period there.”
Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis played together for three-plus seasons of hockey action. So the three know a lot about each other’s tendencies and how to work well together.
“There is familiarity there. We know where each other are going to be,” Dupuis said. “It’s worked in the past. We haven’t scored many goals and that doesn’t help to keep lines together. The coaching staff thinks it might spark something because it has in the past.”
Crosby has won an NHL scoring title and finished top-5 in scoring for two others while playing with Kunitz and Dupuis. And scoring goals and producing is the desired result by the reunion.
“Hopefully that chemistry will pick back up,” Kunitz said. “You want to produce offensively and you want to be able to help out your team.”
Center Evgeni Malkin has scored the past four goals for Pittsburgh, all in the last three games. The Pens are looking to spark some more offense, and hoping the new combination will result in more offense.
“We want to score goals. It doesn’t matter which line is doing it,” Crosby said. “Sometimes you shake things up and it works. We want to make sure we’re producing.”
Kunitz had previously been skating with Nick Bonino and Beau Bennett. And his play of late has caught the eye of the coaching staff, and is one of the reasons for the switches.
“The last couple of games I’ve really liked Kuni’s game,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “He’s been in on the forecheck, hard on pucks, getting scoring chances. That’s a real positive sign.”
Johnston also pointed to the speed on the wings with Kunitz and Dupuis as being an asset to Crosby. But for the trio to be successful, it will be about playing hard in the offensive zone.
“Be hard on pucks, good on the forecheck,” Crosby said. “When you get your chances both Kuni and Duper are good around the net, really strong on pucks there and create a lot of havoc. Hopefully all three of us can generate from going to the net and creating a lot there.”
“To go to the areas that we’ve had success before was retrieving pucks, turning pucks over and scoring on those quick plays,” Kunitz said. “Maybe rush chances will come playing with some speed up and down the walls, knowing and trusting guys will be in certain areas. You can lean offensively a little bit.”
Dupuis, who had been playing all season on left wing, will move back to right wing. The switch is something he called, “no big deal at all.”
Patric Hornqvist will play the right side with Bonino at center and Bennett moving to left wing.
“Beau can play right or left,” Johnston said. “Having our wingers on different sides is not ideal. But we’re looking at the right combination for the line.
“We’re just looking to rebalance our lines, a little more scoring punch, a little more balance in our lineup.”