More changes for Penguins' Malkin
Evgeni Malkin can't keep track of all his wingers the past two seasons.
The number is closing in on double digits if, as coach Dan Bylsma said is likely, Chuck Kobasew replaces Beau Bennett to Malkin's right when the Penguins play the Oilers at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday night.
Bennett is day-to-day with a lower body injury that limited him to two shifts in the third period at Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“We (are) always changing lines,” Malkin said.
Actually, it only seems that way.
Since winning his second scoring title and first MVP two years ago, Malkin has played with left wingers that fit into three categories:
• Ineffective: Zach Boychuk and Eric Tangradi.
• Out of place: Jarome Iginla and Tanner Glass.
• Promising: Bennett and Jussi Jokinen.
Malkin, who has scored only 10 goals in the last 36 regular-season games, said Monday it is not their job to make his life easier.
He is the superstar to whom the Penguins committed $76 million in July. He is the only current NHL player to have won an MVP in the regular and postseason.
However, even as Malkin conceded his production should remain at a consistently elite level no matter his wingers, he could fairly look upon Penguins captain Sidney Crosby with envious eyes.
Crosby, the NHL leader as of Monday with nine points, has spent the healthy portions of his last three seasons playing with Chris Kunitz to his left and Pascal Dupuis to his right. Those three forwards have comprised the most productive line in hockey when Crosby has not missed games because of concussion symptoms or a broken jaw.
“We've seen with them how good they are because they (have) played a long time,” Malkin said. “When you have three guys (together) a long time… I think we need that.”
The “we” to whom Malkin referred is Jokinen and right winger James Neal, who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
Bennett had replaced Neal, and now Kobasew — a tryout-contract invitee to training camp — is slotted to fill in for Bennett.
“I'm not going to change the way I play,” Kobasew said. “You try to hunt pucks and get (him) the puck, let (him) do his magic.
“Communication is huge.”
It is almost everything regarding successfully meshing with Malkin, Neal has said.
Malkin is reputably direct and loud when communicating with linemates, and the conversations are usually one-sided. A winger must toe the line of holding his own while also keeping Malkin happy.
Kunitz played the left wing with Malkin and Neal during the 2012-13 season when Crosby was injured. He kept things simple — on the bench and on the ice.
“Part of it is doing what's expected, part of it is being reliable and consistent enough so they trust,” Kunitz said. “Players with that type of all-world skill that can do everything out there, it seems they just want … to trust where you're going to be (and) expect it to be done every time.”
Neal has done that for Malkin, though not as often as the narrative suggests.
They have played together in only 13 of the Penguins' last 35 regular-season games and in just 76.9 percent (103 of 134) since Bylsma made Neal the right winger for Malkin.
While waiting on a friend he playfully calls “Lazy” to return, Malkin said he must adjust his mentality while working with Jokinen and whomever as the right winger.
“I try to pass more because I know how good ‘Lazy' is, and he shoots (best),” Malkin said of Neal. “I (will) not change my game, but I must score goals more when I know ‘Lazy' is not (playing) with me.
“I (will) try to shoot more.”
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.
- Cole working to become Penguins’ next Martin on defense
- Penguins notebook: Superstitious Sprong begins with confidence
- Penguins see Stars, blanked by Dallas in opening game
- Penguins are hoping their days of drama are finally behind them
- Penguins’ prospects could hinge on health of Letang, Maatta
- Penguins rally in wake of Dupuis injury
- Fleury’s demeanor helps keep Penguins loose, him playing his best
- Penguins make moves in advance of roster deadline