Mike Sullivan continues to sort out Penguins defense
Entering training camp, one of the biggest question marks surrounding the Penguins concerned who will play with whom on defense, particularly with the departure of Olli Maatta this past offseason.
“There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see (Brian) Dumoulin play with (Kris) Letang,” coach Mike Sullivan suggested with a flawless deadpan following practice Wednesday in Cranberry.
Considering Letang and Dumoulin have been virtually arc welded onto one another as the team’s top defensive pairing since the 2016 postseason, there’s little to ponder over that duo.
The bottom two pairings are still up for speculation, however. During practice, the team skated with most of its projected NHL roster on the ice together for the first time this camp and blue line was sorted out a bit.
Letang skated with Dumoulin while Justin Schultz was teamed with Marcus Pettersson. On the third pair, it was Erik Gudbranson and Jack Johnson. A fourth pairing was composed of Chad Ruhwedel and Juuso Riikola. All four pairings combined a left-handed and right-handed shot.
Sullivan was asked specifically about the pairing of physical presences such as Gudbranson and Johnson, neither of whom are threats to participate in the NHL’s fastest skater competition at the All-Star break. Sullivan suggested the blue line — beyond Dumoulin an Letang — remains a work in progress.
“We’re going to explore different options here,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got a number of defensemen that are in the mix. We have a comfort level with certain combinations. … We’re just trying to explore some different looks and see how it goes. We don’t have any real preconceived notions going into it.
“Usually we try to put complementary skillsets together. We try to put a puck mover with a stay-at-home guy and we’ve done that a lot over the last handful of years. But we’ll see how it goes moving forward.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .