ShareThis Page

Three periods: Kessel experiment on left wing pays off

| Saturday, March 18, 2017, 6:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Phil Kessel celebrates with Sidney Crosby after Crosby's empty net goal puts away the Devils late in the third period Friday, March 17, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.

First

LEFT TURN

Coach Mike Sullivan had two reasons for trying longtime right wing Phil Kessel on the left side for Friday night's game against New Jersey.

First, a rash of injuries forced him to shuffle his lineup in ways he previously never considered. Second, he thought it might provide an offensive jump-start for Kessel, who was without a goal in his previous 13 games.

Kessel scored a first-period goal and Sullivan isn't in a massive hurry to get him back on the right side.

“I talked to him this morning,” Sullivan said Saturday. “I asked him how he liked playing the left side. He says, ‘Hey, I didn't mind it. It was a little bit different.' He likes coming down that off side.

“We'll see how it goes. It all depends on who we have available for our lineup and what kind of lines we put together, the lefty-righty thing, who's comfortable where. But it is encouraging to know we can use Phil on both sides.”

—Jonathan Bombulie

second

PK Patrol

Brian Dumoulin logged five minutes and five seconds of short-handed ice time Friday, which matched penalty kill veteran Ian Cole's. No other Penguins defenseman came within four minutes of those marks.

Expect that trend to continue for Dumoulin, a likely replacement for Ron Hainsey as a go-to penalty killer and shot suppression specialist. Hainsey, acquired via trade to address the absences of Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley, is “week-to-week” with an upper-body injury.

Dumoulin has averaged 1:46 of short-handed ice time this season, up from 1:17 in 2015-16.

“I think it's definitely something that throughout the year I've gotten better at,” Dumoulin said. “It's about challenging entries. Right now, the way we want to PK is to utilize whether we can jump on guys quickly or disrupt plays or just read plays. I think that benefits me, and it's something I'm going to try to do a little more of.”

—Bill West

Third

ROAD CONSTRUCTION

Although enthusiasm was dampened a bit by a loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday, a 3-0-1 swing through western Canada earlier this month has Sullivan feeling better about the way his team is playing on the road.

Through the end of January, the Penguins were thoroughly mediocre away from home, going 10-10-3, giving up 3.26 goals per game. Since then, they have been a more respectable 6-3-3, giving up 2.42 goals per game.

It's no reason to plan a parade, but it is progress.

“We've shown the ability to win no matter where we play when we play the game the right way,” Sullivan said. “I think there's a belief in the room that we're capable.”

Worth noting: Of the Penguins' remaining 12 games, six are on the road, but they're all in the Eastern time zone.

—Jonathan Bombulie

OVERTIME

better late ...

Forward Carter Rowney celebrated his first NHL goal Friday, less than two months ahead of his 28th birthday.

Rookies like Rowney who tally their first goal in the league in their late 20s aren't particularly unique.

Europeans and Russians who spend time in leagues overseas do it on an almost annual basis. But the Penguins journeyman represents the rare skater whose pursuit of an NHL career continued strictly within the confines of North America.

Rowney spent three seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and four seasons at University of North Dakota before he turned pro and spent three-plus seasons between Wheeling in the ECHL and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League.

On Jan. 31, Rowney, at the age of 27 years, 266 days, made his first NHL appearance. On Friday, he became the second Penguin since 1987-88 to exceed 27 years of age and score during a debut season. Roman Simicek's breakthrough came at 28 years, 345 days on Oct. 14, 2000, according to hockey-reference.com.

Rowney's goal at 27 years, 311 days made him the oldest NHL rookie to score this season.

—Bill West

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.