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Penguins notebook: Schultz in advisory position with old team

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 7:51 p.m.
The Penguins' Justin Schultz beats the Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau to the puck in the first period Sunday, March 19, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.' Ju
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Justin Schultz beats the Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau to the puck in the first period Sunday, March 19, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.' Ju
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) shoves away Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner (38) in the second period of Game 5 in the first round of NHL playoffs Thursday, April 20, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) shoves away Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner (38) in the second period of Game 5 in the first round of NHL playoffs Thursday, April 20, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.

Justin Schultz looked to center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton's No. 1 overall pick in 2011, for advice and friendship as he learned the nuances of pro hockey in 2012-13.

In a role reversal Schultz never anticipated, he offered words of wisdom to Nugent-Hopkins and other pals still with the Oilers as Edmonton proceeded through its first-round series with San Jose.

“Never thought that'd happen,” Schultz said. “I didn't know anything about (the playoffs). And then, I obviously got a lot of experience last year, so I helped Nuge out a little bit.”

Edmonton entered Thursday tied 2-2 in its first-round series. Schultz has kept an eye on his old team, which reached the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

“It's awesome there right now,” Schultz said. “They're excited. The town, the city is really excited for them. They're a young and fast team.”

More than any piece of advice, the defenseman simply suggested Nugent-Hopkins savor the energy that comes with the postseason environment.

“He just asked me what it's like, what the playoffs are like, all of that,” Schultz said. “It's the best time of year. You don't realize until you get there how much fun it is. And that's what he said after the first couple games, that it was awesome and a lot of fun.

“They're doing a great job against San Jose. Obviously not the best game the last game (a 7-0 loss in Game 4), but they'll bounce back.”

Easing off?

Columbus forward Scott Hartnell indicated the Blue Jackets planned to worry less about their hit totals and more about creating scoring chances midway through the first-round series, and even coach Mike Sullivan believed his opponent's priorities slightly shifted in Game 4.

Those on the ice who absorbed most of the Blue Jackets' punishment detected little difference.

“In the middle of the game, you don't really notice that stuff,” defenseman Trevor Daley said. “(But) it's about what we do out there. We're ready for whatever they bring us. We just have to be prepared.”

Immediate impact

If there's a player in the Penguins locker room least surprised by Jake Guentzel's star turn in the Columbus series, it's probably Carter Rowney.

When Guentzel came out of Nebraska-Omaha at the end of last season and reported to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Rowney was his center on perhaps the most dangerous line in the AHL playoffs. Guentzel had 14 points in 10 games. Rowney had 12.

“When you're coming out of college, you don't really know what's going on,” Rowney said. “The way he jumped into that lineup and filled a huge role down there and was able to produce, it shows a lot about how mature he is for young he is and the style of game he can play.”

The third member of the line was 38-year-old Wilkes-Barre/Scranton captain Tom Kostopoulos, who undoubtedly is thrilled to see his teammates from a year ago making an impact in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Everyone knows you can learn from TK down there,” Rowney said. “He's got a tremendous resume, and he's a great leader and a great guy on and off the ice. You can pick his brain about anything, and he loves seeing people succeed and move up the ranks. You definitely get some texts here and there, and you chat about it. It's nice to be able to show that he's taught me a lot. I'm sure he's proud of us.”

Late scratch

Columbus captain Nick Foligno did not dress after participating in pregame warm-ups. The forward, who finished fourth on the team in points with 51 in the regular season, was ruled out with a lower-body injury, the team announced.

Foligno averaged 20 minutes and 25 seconds of ice time in the first-round series. He had two assists through four games.

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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