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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

HERSHEY – The Penguins may have found their first-line center. And, his name isn’t Mario, Lasse or Sidney – it’s Ryan.

Ryan Malone spent a few shifts Saturday night between Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux and Ziggy Palffy in the Penguins’ 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Wachovia Arena. Malone, a right winger who played some center during his rookie campaign last season, replaced Lasse Pirjeta between Lemieux and Palffy.

Sidney Crosby, who scored his first goal of the preseason Saturday, stayed on the second line, where he skated between Mark Recchi and John LeClair. Meanwhile, the new first-line combination found instant chemistry as Malone scored Pittsburgh’s second goal off assists from Lemieux and Palffy on the power play.

“I liked what I saw. It was an adjustment in the game to try to get us going, trying to create some offense,” Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. “With Ziggy and Mario, I think we’re going to have someone who can get them the puck and be able to do a lot of the work down low. We’re trying to get combinations together in a short period of time, so we’ll see what happens in the next couple of days.”

Pirjeta, a hulking 6-foot-4 winger acquired from Columbus late last season, had centered Lemieux and Palffy on the first line to start Saturday’s game and the team’s loss to Boston on Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre. Pirjeta was bumped to the third line, where he skated between Konstantin Koltsov and Matt Hussey.

Olczyk thought the shift worked well for both Malone and Pirjeta.

“I did like the way Ryan fit in there, but I also liked the way Lasse played between Koltsy and Hussey on that particular line,” he said.

Malone was not in the lineup Sunday for the Penguins’ game against the Washington Capitals in Hershey. However, Pirjeta did play. He centered a line with Daniel Carcillo and Michel Ouellet.


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