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Penguins notebook: Riley Sheahan's experiment on 2nd line goes well

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, 7:18 p.m.
Penguins center Riley Sheahan fights for the puck with the Jets' Josh Morrissey in the third period Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2017 at PPG Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins center Riley Sheahan fights for the puck with the Jets' Josh Morrissey in the third period Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2017 at PPG Arena.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup Friday night after missing four games with an upper-body injury, Riley Sheahan's stint as understudy on the second line came to an end.

It didn't go too badly.

Sheahan spent three of the four games Malkin was out centering highly skilled wingers Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel. In two of the three games, he set up Kessel for an even-strength goal. The Penguins won two of three as well.

A pair of assists is no reason for champagne or confetti, but considering how badly the Penguins have struggled scoring at even strength this season and considering Sheahan had 13 points in his last 88 games with Detroit before being traded, it's a positive step.

“You give them the puck, and with Phil's shot and Guentzel's offensive ability, it's pretty fun,” Sheahan said. “Playing with guys like that, you just have to catch yourself and make sure you don't watch them too much.”

The trick for Sheahan will be continuing to produce offense now that he's back on the third line with winger Carl Hagelin and Bryan Rust.

It will be more difficult to accomplish, given the defensive assignments the trio will have to handle, but it's a goal worth striving for.

“Playing with both those guys, they create a lot of offense,” Sheahan said. “They skate well. They get on the puck. The last couple of games, they've done a great job of playing down low. I look forward to doing that.”

Back to normal

After sitting out three games as a healthy scratch and seeing his name in credible trade rumors, defenseman Ian Cole got a dose of normalcy Friday night.

He was back in the lineup with frequent defense partner Justin Schultz by his side. Chad Ruhwedel was scratched to make room.

“Just gotta keep going and keep working hard, and everything will sort itself out,” Cole said. “It's one of those things, as a player, you don't have a ton of control over. It's something that is certainly unfortunate, but keep working hard and everything should take care of itself.”

The schedule should help Cole get back to normal as well. After this weekend, the Penguins will begin a stretch of four home games played every other day for the next week or so.

“It's almost like that playoff schedule that we've been on for so many months,” Cole said. “It's actually a good schedule to be on, continuous games but rest between games as well. It's a good situation for us.”

Conditioner is better

The Penguins sent winger Josh Archibald to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on a conditioning assignment.

Archibald remains on the NHL roster while on the assignment, which can last no longer than two weeks, and the move does not affect the Penguins' salary cap. It's just an opportunity for a little-used player to see game action.

Archibald has been a healthy scratch for 24 of the Penguins' first 26 games. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton plays three games in three days this weekend, hosting Milwaukee and Rochester before visiting Hershey.

“Archie's been a great pro. He's done everything within his power to give himself a chance,” Sullivan said. “It's just hard sometimes when you don't get in game action.”

Center decision

With Malkin back from injury, Sullivan had five healthy centermen to choose from for the first time this season. Greg McKegg was the odd man out, with Carter Rowney centering Tom Kuhnhackl and Ryan Reaves on the fourth line.

“I just want to help the team, contribute in any way I can,” Rowney said. “Whatever role that is, I want to keep building on my game.”

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

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