Crowded blue line excited about Murray
Many questions remain pertaining to the Penguins' defense corps.
One thing, though, is abundantly certain: The Penguins are excited about their latest addition, defenseman Douglas Murray.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder arrived in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night and figures to be in the lineup on Thursday when the Penguins host the Winnipeg Jets.
A bruising player who figures to infuse the Penguins with a nasty edge, Murray drew praise from his new teammates.
Sidney Crosby, who played against Murray on a few occasions, is pleased to have the big man on his side.
“I just tried to stay away from him,” Crosby said about past games against Murray, who played his entire career with the San Jose Sharks before Monday's trade. “I tried to dump it in the other corner where he wasn't.”
Crosby noted Murray's physicality and said the defenseman is the kind of player that can be effective during the postseason when “you're trying to wear teams down.”
“We're happy he's on our team,” Crosby said. “He's going to bring a lot.”
There are a lot of defensemen in the Penguins' blue line picture these days, which is sure to bring some interesting decisions.
A couple of them were made Tuesday.
Defenseman Kris Letang returned to the lineup after missing three games because of a groin injury.
“I have felt better and better,” Letang said.
Simon Despres was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, although he was not being punished. Rather, of the Penguins' nine NHL defensemen, Despres is the only player eligible to move to the AHL without clearing waivers.
When NHL rosters are permitted to expand April 3, Despres will be back with the Penguins.
But where will he fit into the mix?
It would figure that Letang, Murray, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen are locks to open the playoffs in the Penguins' top-six defensemen rotation. For the sixth player in that rotation, coach Dan Bylsma can choose between Despres, Mark Eaton, Deryk Engelland and Robert Bortuzzo.
A rookie, Bortuzzo is unlikely to see ice time in the playoffs, barring a rash of injuries. Engelland was a playoff regular last season, and the Penguins entered action Tuesday 10-0 with Eaton — who helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2009 — in the lineup.
“Lots of good players here,” Letang said.
Like the rest of the Penguins, Letang appeared to be enthused by the addition of Murray. If the Penguins have struggled in any department, it has been dealing with power forwards near their net, especially while short-handed.
Murray doesn't get pushed around by many forwards and specializes on the penalty kill.
“He's just a really big, physical guy,” Letang said. “He's got lots of playoff experience. He's a good player.”