Jared McCann promoted as Penguins shake up top line again
When the Pittsburgh Penguins open the fourth game of their first-round series against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, they will apparently be using their third different top-line combination.
Jared McCann was bumped up to the first line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel as the team took morning skate in preparation for Game 4. The Islanders can complete a four-game sweep with a victory.
The McCann-Crosby-Guentzel line found some success during the latter stages of the regular season.
“I just think we’re three skilled players that work well together,” McCann said. “There’s just that chemistry there. Obviously, we played a bit together during the regular season. We had some good games. Tonight, I feel like, is going to be one of them.”
Coach Mike Sullivan said having three different top-line combinations in four games is not unusual. The team has kept a pair together — Crosby and Guentzel in this case — and complemented it with different wingers all season long.
“We’ve moved other guys around those tandems throughout the course of the year based on circumstance, how well guys are playing, what we think the team needs at the time,” Sullivan said. “There are certain pairs or certain tandems that we think have had success. Based on certain situations, we try to make the best decisions. We’ll see how it goes.
“The great thing we have about our group is we have some flexibility. We have a lot of centers in the lineup. We’ve got guys that are comfortable on the wing. Some guys can play the off wing. I think there’s a lot of familiarity and a lot of flexibility.”
Given the circumstances, Crosby did not find the change jarring or surprising.
“I mean, whatever works,” Crosby said. “I think we’ve had some chances around the net, whether it’s power play or even strength, and they haven’t gone in. I think we’re comfortable and confident with any combination of guys. At this point, we’ve all played together. Just making sure everyone plays their game and we help each other and support each other and find a way to come up with a win.”
The second and third lines also looked different at morning skate. Bryan Rust moved to the left side of the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. The third-line trio of Dominik Simon, Nick Bjugstad and Patric Hornqvist was reunited.
“I think we like to play with each other,” Hornqvist said. “We get a little chemistry going. We’ve got some confidence playing with each other, too. If we’re playing tonight, we know where we are on the ice. We always have three guys supporting each other down low in their end. If we turn it over, we work really hard to get it back and make sure we’re on top of them.”
There were no changes to the fourth line or defense corps from Game 3. Matt Murray will again start in net.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .