With the Pens losing four of their last five games (and scoring just one goal in each of those setbacks), the guys weren’t surprised that the coaches switched up their lines during this morning’s skate. If anything, they were expecting it. And they’re okay with it.
“I think that’s probably the first thing (to change) to let guys know we need to start doing something different, start playing better, start possessing the puck,” forward Chris Kunitz said. “Why and how the coaches pick (who to move) or whatever, I’m not sure. But hopefully it’ll spark us to be able to get more 5-on-5 zone time and chances and hopefully goals in the end.”
The biggest changes were in the top six. Beau Bennett moved up to play right wing on the “first line” with Kunitz and Sidney Crosby, while Pascal Dupuis shifted to left wing of the “second line” with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Then Jussi Jokinen was reunited with former Carolina teammate Brandon Sutter and Brian Gibbons on the third line.
“It’s exciting,” the 21-year-old Bennett said of potentially playing alongside Crosby and Kunitz. “I think first and foremost, we’ve just to get up there and play the right way and get a win. As far as individually, you don’t want to change much. You don’t want to always defer. You just got to play your game, play smart, play hard and the rest will take care of itself.”
Both Kunitz and Crosby referenced Bennett’s skill and creativity when talking about what he would add to their line – as well as his right-handed shot.
“He’s just got a lot of skills,” Crosby said. “He’s pretty patient with the puck and a right-hand shot, so I think he’ll be patient and be able to hold onto the puck.”
As for what Dupuis would bring to Malkin and Neal’s line, Crosby knows that better than anyone – as he had been playing with him and Kunitz for the past few seasons and they were arguably the best trio in hockey last year.
“He’s going to generate a lot of things off the forecheck,” Crosby said of Dupuis. “He’s going to go to the net hard to create a lot of things from driving to the net, pushing guys back, good defensively. I think he’ll bring that.”
Dupuis said he’s been playing with Crosby for so long, he would need a slight adjustment playing with Malkin. But it’s not like he hasn’t been on the ice with him in different situations.
“With the power play, the PK, the lines get switched around,” Dupuis explained. “You play with a lot of players throughout the game. If our line changes for Geno’s line, I’ll be out there for 10-15 seconds out of a shift with Geno pretty much every night.
“We play one way as a group, every line plays the same way and it shouldn’t be different.”