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The Inside Scoop: Fleury May be Concussed; Pens Tweak Lines, PP

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens had two key injury updates on forward Beau Bennett and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, both of whom were missing at Tuesday’s practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa.

Fleury has a potential concussion. He went through the protocol and saw doctors Tuesday, and will not play Wednesday in Boston.

“Marc came to us after the game and said he did not feel right,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think it was in the game last night, but he didn’t indicate when. When he brought it to our attention we addressed it.”

Bennett is out 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury suffered after he was hit into the boards at an awkward angle by Washington’s T.J. Oshie.

The team hasn’t decided which forward will be recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to take Bennett’s place in the lineup.

On Sunday I asked new head coach Mike Sullivan if he would switch up any of the line combinations and defensive pairs.

Sullivan said that he would keep them the same for Monday’s game against Washington, but that all options were “on the table.”

Sullivan and the coaching staff took that option at Tuesday’s practice.  The Pens used the following units…


“I’m just trying to explore a little bit and see what we might stumble on,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of options, a lot of pieces up front that we can interchange. We have to find a way to generate more offense, score more goals, maybe create more balance.”

The coaches were forced to move pieces around with Bennett’s absence. Although breaking up the second line of David Perron, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel was a bit surprising considering their success on the season.

“I thought we had chemistry – Phil, Geno and I – and that’s something we can always go back to” Perron said. “With Beau coming out you need to try some new looks. We’ll see how it’s going to go.”

The line combinations weren’t the only thing the coaching staff tweaked. The power play had a very different look from previously this season. The “top unit” was broken up to create two more diverse units.

The Pens used the following set ups…
1 – Malkin and Warsofsky on points, Crosby on a wall and Perron and Bonino interchanging at the net.
2 – Dumoulin and Maatta on points, Kessel on the wall and Hornqvist and Kunitz interchanging at the net.

“We’ve talked at length about whether we put all the firepower on one unit or are we a better team is we create two units?” Sullivan said. “I don’t know the answer, but it’s worth exploring. We’re going to go through a process to find out what works best for us.”

The Pens have tried different setups throughout the season, though they’ve stuck to a unit of Kris Letang (when healthy), Kessel, Crosby, Malkin and Hornqvist for the previous 20 games, with mixed results.
“They’ve had the same look for a long time here and they’ve had limited success,” Sullivan said. “Rather than continue to go down a road where we’re pounding a square peg through a round hole, maybe we have to make a change for the sake of change to see if we can tweak the mindset.”

As for the players, it’s still just a matter of execution.

“The power play and the options don’t change,” Crosby said. “Different coaches like different options. There are only so many different things you can do out there. It’s a matter of doing your best in whatever position you’re in and know what your role is on that unit. After that it’s a matter of executing.”

With the new setup, Eric Fehr will move back to center, a position that he’s played the previous few seasons. He had been playing all year with the Pens on the left wing.

“It’s tough when you’re in new positions all the time,” he said. “You just react and you don’t want to be thinking on the ice. The longer you play the position, the same position, you can just react and let your skill take over.”

On key area that Fehr will need to get up to speed quickly will be on the faceoffs. While much of the positioning can come naturally, working the draws is something that can only be done in-game.

“You work on them as much as you can, but there’s nothing like game faceoffs,” he said. “Hopefully, I can get right back in there and start snapping them back. It’s tough. Guys are in midseason form taking draws. They’re taking 15-20 a night. I’ll do my best to get in there and win some draws.”

Pens defensive development coach Sergei Gonchar was a member of the Dallas Stars for parts of two seasons. During that time he worked with newly acquired Pens D-man Trevor Daley.

And he had some glowing things to say about the team’s new blueliner.

“He’s a great teammate. The guys will love him,” Gonchar said. “He’s a great guy on the ice and off the ice. He’s a great skater, one of the better ones I’ve seen. He’s going to help us offensively and defensively. He can create offense jumping in and joining the rush. At the same time he was playing against top lines, too. So he can help us.”

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