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Potential position switch doesn’t faze newest Penguins |

Potential position switch doesn’t faze newest Penguins

Jonathan Bombulie
| Monday, February 4, 2019 3:08 p.m
Canadian Press via AP
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad (27) battle during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019.

Newly acquired Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jared McCann hasn’t exactly made the smoothest of transitions from the climate of South Florida to his new home in Western Pennsylvania.

“I might have to go to the mall and pick up some more pants. I brought a lot of shorts for some reason,” he joked after practice Monday in Cranberry.

The transition should be much easier if the Penguins ask him to leave his familiar position of center to play on the wing.

When the Penguins made the trade to pick up McCann and Nick Bjugstad from the Florida Panthers for Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan and three draft picks on Friday, both general manager Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Sullivan raved about the lineup versatility the move gives the team.

McCann and Bjugstad both confirmed that theory Monday. If either has any misgivings about moving from center to wing and back, they hid them well.

“Anywhere I’ll play,” McCann said. “I played a little bit of wing in Vancouver my first year. I feel like I can pick things up pretty quickly. It’s a great opportunity.”

Bjugstad’s case might be the more intriguing one.

He centered Bryan Rust and Phil Kessel on the team’s second line in his first two games with the Penguins, but once Evgeni Malkin returns from an upper-body injury – he skated on his own before practice Monday – that could change.

“We can use him as a third-line center if we so choose, and he’d be very good at that, but he’s also an offensively gifted player that has the ability to play in a top-six capacity,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “It just gives us a lot of flexibility.”

Bjugstad probably had his greatest success in Florida playing on the wing with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. A stint on the right side with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel could be in his future.

“I don’t really have a preference,” Bjugstad said. “I played center basically my whole life growing up. Last few years, I’ve played in and out, mostly wing. There’s advantages to both, definitely. Wherever they put me, I’ll be happy. Obviously this is a deep lineup, lots of good players to play with.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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