Penguins lineup likely to feature at least 6 centers
Two weeks ago, the Penguins seemingly were desperate to add a center to their depth chart.
Now, they have quite an excess of them.
For Saturday night's game in Toronto, the Penguins are expected to have at least six centers in the lineup against the Maple Leafs, based off line rushes at practice Friday.
One could even make the case that seven of the 12 forwards the Penguins dress are true centers, pending how you define Jake Guentzel (drafted as a center and still officially listed that way in his online bios).
Whatever the number, coach Mike Sullivan is happy to have them at his disposal on game nights.
"You can never have enough center-icemen, that's how I think," Sullivan said. "It's a lot easier to move center-icemen to the wing than it is to move a wing into a center-ice position, so to the amount of center-icemen that we have now, I think gives us a competitive advantage. It gives us versatility on the bench, it allows us to move people around."
#Pens lines:Guentzel-Crosby-ShearyHagelin-Malkin-HornqvistSheahan-Brassard-KesselKuhnhackl-Jooris-RowneyDefense were rotating. -MC— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) March 9, 2018
The latest center in the lineup arrived Thursday evening from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the form of Josh Jooris. During his first practice with the team Friday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Jooris centered a fourth line with Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney (the unit's former center).
Jooris' addition also allowed Riley Sheahan to bump up from fourth-line center to third-line wing next to Derick Brassard.
Calling up Jooris suggests to me that the Penguins plan to use Sheahan as a top-9 wing while guys are out with injuries, probably with Brassard and Kessel. Jooris can center the fourth line. We'll have a better idea of their intentions at practice tomorrow.— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) March 8, 2018
Sullivan said each of his "bottom six" lines now has an extra natural center on them — a potentially valuable luxury if someone gets waved out of the circle during, say, a crucial defensive-zone faceoff.
"We think Riley's been playing extremely well at both ends of the rink," Sullivan said. "He gives us another center-iceman to that line. He brings a defensive conscious to his game … to make that (third) line harder to play against, and we believe he has the defensive and the offensive instincts to play with (Brassard and Phil Kessel)."
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.