Now that Penguins general manager Ray Shero has retooled his club – adding wingers Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and defenseman Douglas Murray since Sunday – there really is only one topic of discussion.
When is that Stanley Cup parade?
Hold off, eh.
These Penguins are a promising bunch, a Cup favorite to be sure; but they are no lock to win it all.
In fact, there is a slight chance these moves hurt the chemistry that has been a big part of this club’s success during the shortened season – though, given the reputable high character of Iginla, Morrow and Murray, that seems unlikely.
Still, who plays where with whom and where?
That is the question coach Dan Bylsma must answer before the playoffs.
What follows is an educated guess, based off conversations with team management, coaches and players.
Top line: Pascal Dupuis-Sidney Crosby-Jarome Iginla.
Dupuis said he is comfortable on either side. He moves so Crosby and Iginla can play together as they did at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Second line: Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal
This is no demotion for Kunitz, but rather an even-strength spark for Malkin and Neal. These three were dominant together most of last season.
Third line: Brenden Morrow-Brandon Sutter-Matt Cooke
Cooke switches sides because Morrow has never played on the right wing. This third line gives the Penguins a gritty identity.
Fourth line: Craig Adams-Joe Vitale-Tyler Kennedy
Kennedy’s speed and skill could add an offensive threat to a checking line, just as Dupuis did for the 2009 Cup champion Penguins.
Extras: Beau Bennett, Dustin Jeffrey, Tanner Glass
Bennett is the logical fill-in for injuries among the top-nine wingers. Jeffery’s position versatility and defensive-zone play could make him a checking-line replacement.
Top defense pairing: Brooks Orpik-Kris Letang
They play well together, have played together in the past, and in the playoffs the idea is to have an elite 1-2 punch of defense pairings. Orpik and Letang can anchor this defense corps, and should.
Shutdown defense pairing: Paul Martin-Mark Eaton
Eaton is a veteran of playoff runs, and an expert shot blocker. What he lacks in mobility, he makes up for in guile. And, Martin has so put his miserable last season behind him that it is no stretch to think he can be the glue on the shutdown defense pairing. His skating and puck movement would mesh well with Eaton.
Third defensepairing: Matt Niskanen-Douglas Murray
Conceivably, Niskanen is the answer to play with Letang, thus allowing Orpik and Martin to stay together. However, the notion of Niskanen as an anchor for Murray, the Penguins’ newfound muscle, is compelling. Niskanen skates well and moves the puck well, neither strong points of Murray’s game. Another good complement pairing for the Penguins.
Extras: Simon Despres, Derek Engelland, Robert Bortuzzo.
Despres could play his way into the top six, and Engelland is a known asset that likely will be needed at some poing. Bortuzoo, now on a conditioning assignment, would be the No. 9 of the nine on defense, mostly because he lacks NHL experience and has not played much recently.
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Rob Rossi covers the Penguins and NHL for Trib Total Media and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He is ClearChannel’s Penguins Insider. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib.