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Penguins notebook: With Kunitz out, Cullen moves to top line

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, 10:18 a.m.
Penguins winger Chris Kunitz plays against the Flyers on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins winger Chris Kunitz plays against the Flyers on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins winger Scott Wilson
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Penguins winger Scott Wilson

With winger Chris Kunitz missing his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan again broke out his Swiss Army knife.

Veteran forward Matt Cullen shifted from his usual spot at fourth-line center to Kunitz's spot on the left wing of the top line with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist.

Earlier this month, Cullen played the left side on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. He also has played center and wing on the third and fourth lines, killed penalties regularly and filled in on the power play occasionally in this, his 19th season of pro hockey.

“I consider myself really lucky because to be a versatile player is a valuable thing,” Cullen said. “It's something I embrace. I work on everything in the summer and prepare for everything in the summer so that when the time comes, I feel like I'm pretty ready for whatever happens.”

Letang's balancing act

For about a week now, in the wake of a hit he took in a Jan. 15 game in Tampa, defenseman Kris Letang has been sitting out practices and playing in games. That trend continued, when he was in the lineup against the Devils after missing Monday's skate.

When deciding whether to practice, Letang said it's a matter of weighing the negatives of missing a day of work versus the positives of getting extra time to let the upper-body injury heal.

“I wish I could be in practice,” he said. “It would help a lot. We're still trying to build things with the new coaches.”

Letang said he will attend All-Star Game festivities this weekend in Nashville, Tenn. He could not say what his level of activity will be once he gets there.

Chemistry class

The Penguins opened Tuesday's game with a fourth line made up of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call-ups — left wing Scott Wilson, center Kevin Porter and right wing Conor Sheary.

Wilson and Sheary played together regularly while with the Baby Pens, usually with veteran Kael Mouillierat as their center.

Wilson is tied for the AHL lead with 20 goals, and Sheary is third in the league with 26 assists, so there's obviously some offensive chemistry between the two.

“I think so,” Wilson said. “Every time we've been up and down and we go back down, we've been able to produce.”

Happy trails

Craig Adams, a key penalty killer and fixture among the bottom-six forwards for the Penguins' Stanley Cup team in 2009, officially announced his retirement.

Adams played 453 games for the Penguins from 2009-15, setting the team record for consecutive games played with 319.

Around the Pens

The Penguins played a brief tribute to former general manager Ray Shero, now in the same post with the Devils, on the video board in the first period. ... Former Penguins defenseman Adam Clendening, who was traded to Anaheim with David Perron for Carl Hagelin on Jan. 18, was placed on waivers by the Ducks. ... The AHL announced defenseman Derrick Pouliot won't play in the league's all-star game Monday in Syracuse. N.Y., because he remains on the Penguins' NHL roster.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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