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Pens' power-play quarterback: Letang or Schultz?

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Perhaps the biggest question regarding the Pens' power play is who will be the team's quarterback. 

Defenseman Kris Letang has been a staple in that position for the past several years. But after a herniated disc in his neck sidelined him in February, Justin Schultz stepped into that position and filled in admirably.

"These are two guys that are real good power-play guys. And they're both going to see some time there," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "That's how I envision it moving forward. They're both No. 1 power-play defensemen."

Letang, 30, is a workhorse for the Pens, averaging 25-plus minutes per game over the past three seasons. Splitting some power-play minutes with Schultz could help alleviate some of Letang's minutes.

"It should give us the ability to spread the minutes evenly," Sullivan said. "Maybe we can take some workload off of both guys. They're both bonafide No. 1 power-play defensemen and we're fortunate to have them."

Schultz's presence will also be an asset to the Pens considering Letang is returning from surgery on the aforementioned herniated disc in his neck. So the team has the luxury to ease Letang back into the lineup and build up his minutes.

Letang and Schultz are similar players as both are offensive-type of defensemen. They are great skaters, can carry the puck through traffic and can make plays.

But they also have some differences. Letang likes to freelance from the mid-point position and create offense on his own. Schultz prefers to remain along the blue line as a safety valve and will either dish the puck or tee up a slap shot.

"It's a huge asset to have two guys like that," Recchi said.

The Pens' power play will also be making another adjustment, though this one is not on the ice.

Rick Tocchet, who served as the team's assistant coach and oversaw the power play, has departed for Arizona to become a head coach.

Now, new assistant coaches Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar will take over in that department, with the help of head coach Mike Sullivan, of course.

"We collaborate on everything. We're working on things together," Recchi said. "We have different ideas, bounce things off of each other. None of us have egos so we'll have fun with it. When you have a group like this, it's enjoyable and seeing what we can do."

There's a reason Recchi is excited to inherit this group. The Pens' power play features all the ingredients needed for success with some of the best offensive players in the entire league in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Letang and Phil Kessel.

The unit ranked third in the National Hockey League last season with a success rate of 23.1 percent. The Pens even had three players reach double digits in power-play goals with Crosby (14), Malkin (11) and Patric Hornqvist (10), while Kessel totaled 30 power-play points.

"A lot of the video we watched, it's simple why we're effective," Recchi said. "We'll try not to get in the way."

Having too many capable people is certainly a nice problem to have. Beyond the top unit, the Pens have a plethora of players that can step in and delivery like Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary or Bryan Rust.

"You go down the list, it's a great thing," Recchi said. "We have a lot of guys that can get that opportunity. Whoever is playing well is going to get that opportunity. That's the nice thing. We can reward guys for playing well. When guys are struggling we can put them in situations to get them out of it."

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