With the trade deadline acquisitions, Ray Shero has given Dan Bylsma and staff a good problem — 7 NHL defensemen and 13 NHL forwards. Beyond the obvious increase in talent level, there are other advantages. First, it gives the bottom forwards a little extra motivation to stay on top of their game so they can remain in the lineup. It also gives the team an added flexibility that can be used game by game and also within a game. Depending on the type of team or type of game that the Penguins want to play, this group of players gives Bylsma tremendous leverage and strategic possibilities. How to deal with the problem. It appears as though McKee will be the odd man out on defense – a decision that I don’t think anyone could argue with. It is nice to know that if someone gets banged up, has a bad stretch, or just needs a rest, that McKee will be available. Should the Penguins have to dig any deeper, Lovejoy and Engelland are a short drive away.
Up front the decision of who sits is going to be a little tougher. With the way the Penguins have played in the first two post-Olympic games, it is going to be difficult to tell one of these guys not to dress. The Crosby line is set. Malkin and Ponakorovsky need a wing. For Russian reasons, I give the first shot to Fedetenko. The fourth line is Adams, Talbot and Rupp. These three players have so much value in so many roles, that they need to be in the lineup. Staal and Cook need a wing. Dupuis and Kennedy remain. I know Kennedy has been a mainstay there, but his play lately has been sub-par. I give this spot to Dupuis. He has the speed and tenacity, and is also a valuable penalty killer. Kennedy has limited uses, so he is my choice as first for pressbox duty. Like McKee, it’s nice to know that if there is an injury, dropoff in play, or rest needed, Kennedy would be able to add a spark upon his reentry to the lineup. Further depth has Letestu, Connor, Tangradi and Johnson just down the road. That’s the view from E-11.
Note — I’m going to leave Steigy alone today. His line about two of the three biggest Canadian goals in history being scored by people living in the same house in Sewickley got him a pass.
Note — Another big weekend at the Mellon Arena. 4 points are needed from Dallas and Boston. Very large because 7 of the next 8 are on the road.