Rossi: Bylsma drawing upon Jokinen
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Evgeni Malkin is looking at another new linemate.
Jussi Jokinen likely will play some with Malkin and winger Jarome Iginla when the Penguins try to take back home-ice advantage from the New York Islanders on Sunday. Game 3 of a best-of-seven series tied, 1-1, begins at noon.
Malkin's regular right winger, James Neal, is unlikely to play because of an injured right ankle.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma hinted he favors placing Jokinen with Malkin and Iginla.
That decision has little to do with Jokinen's seven goals and 13 points in 12 games since joining the Penguins in a trade from Carolina on April 5.
Jokinen, who is comfortable at either wing and at center, is the Penguins' best faceoff-man in the series. He has won 14 of 20 draws, including a 7-for-8 performance in Game 2.
Malkin, a former regular-season and playoff MVP and two-time scoring champion, can often make the improbable look easier. But faceoffs are the weakest part of his otherwise dynamic game.
His best postseason run — 14 goals and 36 points when the Penguins won the Cup in 2009 — came while playing on a line with winger Ruslan Fedotenko and forward Max Talbot, the latter with whom Malkin basically split faceoff duty in that postseason.
Malkin took draws in the offensive and neutral zones, with Talbot handling the defensive faceoffs.
Expect a similar setup with Malkin and Jokinen against the Islanders as long as Neal is out.
Malkin's faceoffs dropped from 18 in Game 1 to five in Game 2, as Jokinen replaced rookie winger Beau Bennett on the second line.
Bennett had scored on his first postseason shot in Game 1, but he barely played in the third period of Game 2 other than in the final minutes as the Penguins tried to tie the score with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury pulled.
“We were putting people in places to win faceoffs, and that took him out of a regular shift in the third period,” Bylsma said. “We didn't see as much puck-time in the offensive zone for Beau.”
Bennett's demotion to the fourth line does not mean he will be replaced in Game 3 by right winger Tyler Kennedy, a veteran of 67 playoff games and a Bylsma favorite.
Kennedy could play Sunday, though.
Bylsma, per club policy, is not discussing lineups before games.
Easing the physical faceoff burden for Malkin also would be a reason to have Jokinen spell him on some draws.
Malkin's injured left shoulder has improved, but only slightly since he was first injured March 9.
He did not practice Saturday, and the Penguins are planning to give him some days off from on-ice workouts, so that his shoulder can receive additional medical treatment.
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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