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Penguins looking for more production in scoring department

| Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Blue Jackets' Fedor Tyutin gets called for elbowing the Penguins' Brandon Sutter in the first period Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could use some help.

While the Penguins generally have been impressive in beginning their season with a 7-2 record, a lack of scoring depth — something that was a concern entering the season — is becoming evident.

On the rare night when Crosby and Malkin are silent offensively, as happened Monday against Colorado, the Penguins' lack of significant scoring depth is clear.

“It would be nice to get a goal from every line,” said coach Dan Bylsma, who did not note any dissatisfaction with his bottom six forwards.

In terms of physical play and puck possession, the bottom six have been playing well. There have been standouts, such as Tanner Glass (second in the NHL with 39 hits) and Craig Adams (three goals in the season's first four games).

However, seven players who have received ice time at forward this month have not scored a goal.

While Crosby (17 points) has been in otherworldly form through nine games and Malkin (nine points) has been productive, the other two regular centers — Brandon Sutter and Joe Vitale — are without a goal.

Although Bylsma would like to see more of his role players producing, he didn't seem upset with their performance against Colorado. The Penguins, after all, went 0 for 7 on the power play.

When including Colorado's three power plays, one-third of the game was spent on special teams, making it difficult for the Penguins' bottom-six players to establish anything. Plus, with the Penguins trailing in the final period, Crosby and Malkin double-shifted with regularity, as Bylsma pushed to even the score.

“There was not a good flow to the game five-on-five,” Bylsma said. “Probably three times in the first 40 minutes we actually had our lines together. The fourth line, in particular, saw a lot of Crosby and Malkin as their center.”

The good news for the Penguins is that help is on the way.

Two of the Penguins' most dynamic players — defenseman Kris Letang and right wing James Neal — should be back in the lineup soon. Another player, forward Beau Bennett, also could be back within the next few games.

Adding Neal (who is out at least one more week) and Bennett will make the forwards that much deeper, as Bennett figures to join Sutter on the third line. Also, Neal figures to join Malkin and Jussi Jokinen on what could be a terrific line.

“It's been tough without Nealer,” Malkin said. “Different linemates all the time.”

Letang's addition should augment the Penguins' transition game and help all of the forwards receive the puck on the rush.

“I'm definitely hoping to be back in the lineup soon,” Letang said. “It's not fun when you're not out there, not able to play.”

Nobody is playing better than Crosby. It also could be argued that no one has been more valuable to his team. Crosby has been on the ice for 15 of the Penguins' past 16 goals. He has scored or assisted on 12 of those goals.

“But I think we're fine,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “Against (Colorado), it was just one of those games. We're playing pretty good hockey.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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