Bylsma eyes other guy for Malkin-Neal line
By Rob Rossi
Published: Monday, January 7, 2013, 9:14 p.m.
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013
James Neal is back in Pittsburgh.
The winger who will join him this season on a Penguins line with two-time scoring champion Evgeni Malkin is likely already on coach Dan Bylsma's roster.
Bylsma said Monday that Tyler Kennedy, Tanner Glass and Matt Cooke would play with Malkin and Neal.
“I also feel like I wouldn't anchor (new acquisition Brandon) Sutter to that third-line center position,” Bylsma said. “If he is winning a lot of the right-hand draws he could conceivably go take the draw and be on Geno's line.
“There could be some movement.”
Malkin (first) and Neal (seventh) were top-10 NHL scorers last season while playing mostly on a line with left winger Chris Kunitz. Malkin and Neal combined for 90 goals and 190 points.
However, Bylsma said he will return Kunitz to a line with winger Pascal Dupuis and center Sidney Crosby. Skating with those players in 2010-11, Crosby racked up 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games — a career-best 1.61 points-per-game pace — before concussion symptoms shelved him.
There are other options for the Malkin/Neal vacancy created by the offseason departure of veteran winger Steve Sullivan.
General manager Ray Shero could swing a trade, though that is unlikely.
The Penguins could find Malkin's other man on the waiver wire.
Also, top forward prospect Beau Bennett, a likely camp invitee, could parlay his game-ready timing into a roster spot. Bennett, a right-handed shot, is a natural on the off wing, and he has six goals to go with 17 assists in 28 AHL games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Kennedy, also a right-handed shot, has mostly played on the right wing in the NHL. He scored 21 goals two years ago in an expanded role.
Glass, a left winger signed from Winnipeg last summer, has scored just 13 NHL goals. Bylsma said he would play “if we're winning.”
Cooke can work either wing, though he prefers the left side. His 19 goals last season marked a personal high, and his style of play — fast, punishing, irritating — is similar to what worked for Kunitz while playing alongside Malkin and Neal last season.
“That spot with Malkin and James is going to be open and situational,” Bylsma said. “But it's going to open to somebody claiming that spot and making it permanent, too.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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Wait...Dan Bylsma...appearing to almost intentionally ignore even the possibility of the young winger with high end skill playing a top six role...while assuming that some combination of Cooke (a career high of 19 G...and a career average of under 14G per 82 games played), Kennedy (a career high of 21G...and that's his only 20 goal season) and Tanner Glass (a career high of - count them - 5G...and 13G in 262 career games) should be just fine? I'm shocked at the - nevermind. I can't even pretend to be surprised for the sake of making a joke anymore. Yeah...let's break up what might have been the single most dangerous line in the sport last season so that we can put a third or fourth line guy (and that's no disrespect whatsoever to any of those three players...this just isn't what they do, just like being a nuclear physicist isn't my job) on the left side. Maybe we could get Francois Leroux to come out of retirement to play with Malkin and Neal so their jobs could be even harder. I know the Pens don't have much - well, any - recent history of home-growing offensive wingers. I think the extraordinarily flaky Jaromir Jagr may be the only wing the Pens have drafted since 1990 who went on to score 30 or more goals in a Pens uniform. And that's an absolutely horrifying notion, when you think about it. 22 years...one guy. And giving the young guys something on the order of 30 seconds of playing time per game in a top 6 role isn't ever going to change that.