Penguins notebook: Could Kunitz reunite with Malkin and Neal for playoffs?
Coach Dan Bylsma may have tipped his hand in the third period of the Penguins' win over Carolina on Saturday.
The score tied, 3-3, to start the final session, Bylsma rolled a line that consisted of left winger Chris Kunitz, center Evgeni Malkin and right winger James Neal.
That was the Penguins' top line for most of last season, when Malkin led the NHL in scoring and was MVP and Neal hit the 40-goal mark. However, upon captain Sidney Crosby's return to the lineup in March 2012, Kunitz resumed playing with Crosby and right winger Pascal Dupuis.
Bylsma has not committed to which players will play with one another upon Crosby's return, but Bylsma could keep Kunitz-Malkin-Neal as a unit if he opted to move Dupuis to the left side on a line with Crosby and right winger Jarome Iginla.
Neal, a left winger before last season, prefers to play the right side.
Dupuis played the left wing with Crosby and right winger Marian Hossa during the Penguins' run to the 2009 Cup Final. Dupuis said he is comfortable working either side.
• Center Sidney Crosby (broken jaw) is practicing, but there is no timetable for his return. He missed the final 12 games of the regular season and, as of Sunday, had not been cleared for contact. He was injured March 30 when a puck hit his face. Defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body, undisclosed) is day-to-day. He missed the final two regular season games and has not practiced since leaving a home loss to Buffalo last Tuesday. Center Joe Vitale (lower body, undisclosed) is day-to-day. He missed the final two regular season games, but is working out on his own.
• The Penguins will stage outdoor activities, including a giant video screen, across the street from Consol Energy Center on days of home playoff games. The team plans to make use of space available at the parking lots where Mellon Arena once stood. Also, through at least Round 1, there are no plans for home “White Outs,” which became popular during the 2008 and 2009 Cup Final runs. The Penguins will provide fans with a rally towel for home games in Round 1.
• There were no plans for Penguins players to gather Sunday night to watch the Ottawa-Boston game. Sunday was designated as an off day by most NHL clubs because the Stanley Cup playoffs are scheduled to open Tuesday, though the Penguins cannot play that night because of a Black Keys' concert at Consol Energy Center. The Senators-Bruins game, at Boston's TD Garden, was played only because it had been postponed in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings April 15.
The result of the postponed game impacted the Penguins, who as of Sunday morning did not know if they would play the Senators or New York Islanders in Round 1 of the playoffs. However, most Penguins players said they intended to spend their Sunday trying not thinking about hockey. The Penguins will hold their first playoffs practice Monday.
• Left winger Steve MacIntryre was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Sunday. He appeared in a game with the Penguins this season.