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Penguins notebook: Sutter gets shot on top line

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth makes a first-period save on the Penguins' Brandon Sutter on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 8:51 p.m.
 

Brandon Sutter has had a lot of linemates this season, ranging from competent NHL third liners to AHL veterans and journeymen the Penguins since have put on waivers.

But he hasn't complained about his situation.

Sutter was placed at right wing on the top line, alongside center Sidney Crosby and left wing Chris Kunitz, for the Penguins' showdown with Washington.

“I didn't think these would be my next two linemates,” Sutter said, having trouble hiding his smile. “But I'm hoping it goes well.”

Sutter has been a center since entering the NHL with Carolina in 2008. In fact, before Wednesday's switch, he hadn't played wing since his second season in the WHL while playing for Red Deer.

He minimized the positional switch.

“It's still the same defensive game we've all been playing structurally,” Sutter said. “Hopefully I can get a feel for it in the first couple of shifts.”

Should the Penguins ever get healthy, he figures to return to his customary spot at center on the third line. Many layers the Penguins normally would have for the right wing alongside Crosby — namely Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett and Brian Gibbons — are injured.

Sutter plans on making the most of the opportunity, no matter how long it lasts.

“I don't think too many people would complain about it,” he said. “It should be pretty cool. I'm actually looking forward to the opportunity. I don't know what the plan is going forward, but I'm hoping to get out there and have some fun.”

Another new guy

Right wing Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond — better known as PL3 in Wilkes-Barre — was recalled and suited up against the Capitals.

He isn't known for superb offensive play; he has zero goals in 40 career NHL games. However, Letourneau-Leblond is one of the most physical players in the Penguins organization and played on the fourth line with a couple of other physical players, center Zach Sill and defenseman/right wing Deryk Engelland, against the Capitals.

“I want to help out any way I can,” he said.

Neal misses game

Right wing James Neal didn't play against the Capitals on Wednesday. Neal was injured Friday against Edmonton but managed to play through the injury against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

He did not practice Monday or Tuesday but participated in Wednesday's morning skate. He hinted afterward that he was hoping to play against Washington.

The Penguins don't play again until Monday against Florida.

Around the boards

Washington dressed goalies Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby against the Penguins, making the rookie who has been their best goalie this season, Philipp Grubauer, a healthy scratch. Grubauer entered the game with a 2.06 GAA and a .936 save percentage. … Defenseman Simon Despres, who did not impress coaches with his performance in last week's 5-4 victory in Vancouver, was a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game.

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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