Penguins' third line will have new look
Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy once formed one of hockey's finest third lines.
Now that they're gone, what remains? A new philosophy, for starters.
Center Brandon Sutter is the only given to begin the season on the third line, and no matter who plays with him, the line likely will rely on finesse.
“The game has changed,” newly acquired right wing Matt D'Agostini said. “The game is all about speed and skating.”
D'Agostini likely will be given an opportunity to play on the third line. He skated there Thursday with Sutter and left winger Jussi Jokinen.
Sutter and Jokinen have a history of playing together in Carolina, but neither has a reputation of being physical like Cooke. And that's OK, D'Agostini, said.
“If you're playing well defensively and if you have a presence offensively,” he said, “then you're going to be fine on a third line. That's really all you need to do, and I know that's something the guys here can do. You can be a good third line as long as you can skate, get the puck behind the defense and go to work. If you've got the puck, you're a good third line.”
There are several candidates to play on the third line. Sutter is a lock at center, and it appears either Jokinen or Beau Bennett will play on his left side.
Right wing is up in the air.
Winger Tanner Glass, one of the few Penguins known for his physical style, said he would welcome an opportunity. Besides D'Agostini, Dustin Jeffrey, Harry Zolnierczyk, Adam Payerl and Jayson Megna could get a look, and Joe Vitale and Craig Adams seem likely to begin on the fourth line.
“We definitely lost a couple of bangers in TK and Cookie,” Vitale said. “But we still just have so many good players on this team. The fourth line could end up being really physical, so I don't know that the third line needs to have that to be successful.”
Coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged that the third line will have a significantly different look. Wingers like Cooke, Kennedy, and Brenden Morrow spent time on the third unit last spring, and Bylsma realizes the makeup of this team is different.
“There is competition on that (line),” Bylsma said. “The players that end up on that line are probably going to shape up in a different way. That (Sutter, D'Agostini and Jokinen) would not be a crash-and-bang line. It wouldn't be a matchup, checking kind of line. We have other players who can be used in that kind of role. We have guys like Craig Adams and Tanner Glass who can be effective in that role.”
Bylsma didn't sound concerned about the third line being less physical.
“There are guys who can add a different element to our third line,” he said. “We'll look for crash and bang elsewhere.”
Sutter, who said his game should benefit from having a full training camp to better familiarize himself with Bylsma's system, felt comfortable with Jokinen and D'Agostini.
“I think we're good two-way players, and we play similar styles,” Sutter said. “It felt pretty good. I think we all complement one another pretty well.”