Penguins' Despres works to crack lineup again
RALEIGH, N.C. — With slick, puck-moving defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin out of the lineup, it would seem logical that defenseman Simon Despres would receive additional responsibility.
Just the opposite is taking place.
Despres was a healthy scratch again when the Penguins visited the Hurricanes on Tuesday. Rookie defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who was a healthy scratch during each game of the Penguins' recent 15-game winning streak, played instead.
Bortuzzo skated with Deryk Engelland, and while both have enjoyed solid seasons, the lack of puck-moving defensemen in the lineup is glaring at times without Letang and Martin. Despres could help in that department, but he remains on the bench.
Despres played in consecutive losses to Buffalo and the New York Rangers last week and hasn't cracked the lineup since.
Coach Dan Bylsma was asked Tuesday if the decision to sit Despres was a difficult one. Bylsma shook his head for about five seconds before saying “no” three times.
Bylsma suggested that Bortuzzo was a clear choice to play against the Hurricanes.
“I don't know where you want me to go with that,” Bylsma said. “Robert Bortuzzo has played real well. Against a bigger-body team around the net, Robert will be in there.”
Despres stayed on the ice for additional work following the morning skate, which is routine for healthy scratches.
He said that finding consistency in his game remains an issue.
“I have a lot of things to work on,” he said. “I can still be better. I have to learn to do the simple things better.”
Despres didn't elaborate.
At times, Despres makes high-risk plays that aren't preferred by the coaching staff. The Penguins want Despres to become more economical and low-risk in his approach rather than skating his way out of trouble or making an extra pass.
“I know I need to keep things more simple than I have,” Despres said. “I have a lot of tweaks to work on, a lot to learn. I'm learning from the older guys. Plus we have so much depth right now. The other guys are playing well. I'm just trying to get back in the lineup.”
Despres made one promise.
“When I get my chance to play again,” he said, “I'll be better.”
The Penguins are 22-6 with Despres in the lineup.
The 2010 first-round pick has produced two goals and seven points this season. He is a plus-9, which ranks 20th among NHL defensemen.
His plus-minus mark trails only Letang, Martin and Brooks Orpik among Penguins defensemen.
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.
- Zatkoff’s, Malkin’s heroics not enough as Oilers down Penguins in shootout
- Penguins notebook: Players prepared for tough schedule in minors
- Penguins lose hard-fought game to Blue Jackets in overtime
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Penguins 4th line is showing promise
- Penguins notebook: Dupuis’ intangibles provide 1st-line value
- Rossi: Just like old times for Penguins’ Crosby, Malkin
- Dumoulin-Lovejoy combo emerges as Penguins’ go-to defensive tandem
- Hard-hitting Penguins veteran winger Kunitz is last of a dying breed
- Crosby scores twice, Malkin delivers OT goal as Penguins beat Blues
- Penguins notebook: Blues defenseman Bortuzzo sticks to brutish ways