With Crosby out, Bylsma will keep lines largely intact
The Penguins are no strangers to winning without Sidney Crosby, who has missed 101 games during the previous two seasons.
Coach Dan Bylsma's philosophy to winning without Crosby, beginning Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, appears simple: Keep everyone comfortable.
“We just need to keep doing what we're doing,” forward Tyler Kennedy said.
Bylsma apparently agrees.
Consider some of the status quo that will be maintained when the Penguins attempt to win their 16th straight game — one shy of the NHL record:
• The line of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Jarome Iginla will remain intact. That line was put together before Crosby sustained a broken jaw and lost several teeth Saturday against the New York Islanders.
• The line of Brandon Sutter, Matt Cooke and Brenden Morrow — presumably the third line Bylsma would like to deploy in the Stanley Cup playoffs — will remain together even though it may have been tempting to move Sutter into the top six.
• Wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, who have flanked Crosby with great success this season, will remain on the same line. Their temporary will be Kennedy. There is familiarity for Kennedy, too, because he was a center during the younger stages of his career.
Bylsma is making things even simpler for his newest player. Iginla was agreeable to playing left wing Saturday, but he felt uncomfortable at times largely because he hadn't played the left wing in 15 years.
Expect a change against the Sabres as Iginla will flip to the right wing and Neal, originally a left wing, will switch to the left side of Malkin.
“It's more natural,” Iginla said. “I'd be lying if it wasn't. I'm happy to keep working on the left, but if it is the right, I feel better and more comfortable.”
Neal prefers playing on the right side on the second line because he likes receiving passes from Malkin's forehand side. However, he insisted the switch isn't a big deal and that, with Malkin's unorthodox style, positions are often irrelevant.
Playing without Crosby isn't ideal, of course, but Neal is confident the team can maintain its hot play without him.
“It gives guys a chance to step up,” Neal said. “I think we'll be OK.”
Bylsma acknowledged that the duos he will deploy in the playoffs — namely Kunitz with Dupuis, Malkin with Neal and Sutter with Cooke — will be best served playing together now.
“Yes, a little bit,” Bylsma said. “Today when we looked at combinations on the ice, we've got two lines that pretty much have stayed together.”
Moving Kennedy to center between two of the league's most productive wingers was an easy decision for Bylsma, who noted that he immediately thought of Kennedy moving into that spot when Crosby was injured. Kennedy assisted on Matt Cooke's game-winning goal later that afternoon.
“It's a place he's played a lot in his life,” Bylsma said.
And dealing with Crosby being out of the lineup puts the Penguins in a familiar place.
“With Sid being out, minutes need to be eaten up,” Sutter said. “But we're going to keep doing the same things.”
Show commenting policy
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.
- Rossi: Crosby’s debt to NHL paid in full
- Penguins’ Fleury surrenders 7 goals in 1 period of NHL All-Star Game loss
- NHL All-Star Game notebook: Columbus, Johansen make strong showing
- Crosby, Malkin dazzle fellow All-Stars
- All-Stars consider it a privilege to take part in game
- Fleury’s All-Star play has coincided with joy of being a father
- Fleury’s relay team struggles in NHL skills competition
- Penguins’ Crosby receives injection for lower-body injury
- Penguins limp into All-Star break, welcome chance to recuperate
- Penguins looking to get back on track heading into the All-Star break
- Injured Crosby, Malkin to miss NHL All-Star Game