Penguins settling into stable line combinations down the stretch
While injuries have caused a shuffle on the Pittsburgh Penguins blue line in recent days, the combinations up front have been remarkably stable.
In fact, with five games left in the regular season, it’s not hard to project the line combinations coach Mike Sullivan will use in the playoffs.
The top-line trio of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust seems set. Ditto for the third-line combination of Dominik Simon, Nick Bjugstad and Patric Hornqvist.
At the moment, the second line has Teddy Blueger centering Jared McCann and Phil Kessel. When Evgeni Malkin returns from an upper-body injury, he’ll likely slot into the middle of that line, leaving Blueger, Matt Cullen and Garrett Wilson on the fourth.
When Zach Aston-Reese returns from a lower-body injury, he’ll more than likely replace Wilson.
“We’ve had a lot of stability with the lines recently, over the last three or four weeks,” Sullivan said. “Certainly, it helps them to build some chemistry. Ideally, we’d like to try to settle into combinations. I think we’ve had consistent tandems most of the year, but we’ve moved that third guy around depending on injuries or who’s playing well or what the needs are or whatever it may be.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re completely set right now because we have some key players that aren’t in the lineup, but for the most part, we’ve been pretty stable.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .