NEWARK, N.J. – On paper, Tanner Pearson and Dominik Simon are two of the top 12 forwards on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster.
They’ll get a chance to show it on the ice when the Penguins visit the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
Based on line combinations at morning skate, Pearson will make his return after missing the last two games as a healthy scratch. Simon will play his second straight game after sitting out the previous two. Teddy Blueger and Garrett Wilson will be scratched to make room.
Pearson and Simon will be centered by Matt Cullen on the fourth line.
“When they’re playing at their best, they’re good players,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When we look at our depth chart, when those guys are playing at their best, they’re more than likely in our top 12. We need to get their best in order to have success.”
Pearson has one goal in his last 13 games. He said he understands why he was out of the lineup.
“It’s not the best-case scenario, but it’s how this league is. It’s a winning business,” Pearson said. “If you’re not playing up to the standards or the team isn’t, stuff changes. I was that change for a bit, but hopefully I can have a consistent game from here on out.”
Pearson said Sullivan had a talk with him in Tampa last weekend, reminding him to focus on being a factor on the forecheck.
“That’s kind of where my game can be pretty good, on the forecheck, causing turnovers,” Pearson said. “When I get down there, I think to think I’m pretty good when I have the puck along the boards and making plays out of that situation. Just little things like that. Being good on the boards in your own zone and probably getting a few more shots.”
Having the kind of depth that can force accomplished players to the press box isn’t a bad thing, Simon said.
“It’s great for the team,” he said. “It’s great to be in a competitive environment. It gives you more than it takes, for sure. It gets you more prepared. You have to stay in it, stay engaged.”
The trick is staying on the right side of it.
“Just play the game the right way,” said Simon, who has one goal in his last 16 games. “Be defensively responsible and create some offense.”