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Healthier Penguins Will Cause Interesting Lineup Decisions for Bylsma

Again, apologies for the lack of posts beyond pasting embedded clips and press releases.  Just not my year writing-wise.

Slowly but surely, your Pittsburgh Penguins are getting healthier.

This past week saw the return of forward Arron Asham, just in time to relieve Matt Cooke as it turned out.  Brooks Orpik is practicing with the team as his broken finger is nearly healed.  Once Orpik is back in the lineup, which is looking like next week, that will make the Pens’ defensive corps back to full strength.  Eric Tangradi is now skating with the team as well having recovered from the concussion caused by the Trevor Gillies elbow.  Mark Letestu has been skating on his own after dealing with an upper-body injury.  Even Mike Comrie, who has only appeared in 16 games with the Penguins before having hip surgery, is back on the ice and getting his conditioning back in shape.  Nick Johnson is farther away, still experiencing concussion symptoms.  And, oh yeah, that Crosby guy is ramping up the intensity of his workouts, both on and off ice.  Not coming a moment too soon, I might add.

But as players eventually get back to the lineup, it makes Penguins’ Head Coach Dan Bylsma’s job that much tougher.

Let’s fast forward three weeks from now, and the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs start:

- In this scenario that’s entirely speculation, Sidney Crosby, Mark Letestu, Nick Johnson and Mike Comrie have all returned to be at least available to play.

- Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cooke are unavailable.

If that were to come to fruition, and it’s certainly plausible that it could, the Penguins would have 18 forwards that are currently on the roster.  Of course, that’s possible because the Penguins have six players still on IR, including Orpik.  Even if you remove Johnson from the equation, maybe his concussion is more severe, that would still leave 17.  By the way, I’m counting on Crosby to return.  Frankly, if Crosby does not return, most of this is moot anyway.  Their playoff run won’t be long without him.

The natural answer is merely to send some players back down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  But with the trade deadline acquisitions of forwards James Neal, Matt Niskanen and Alex Kovalev, the Pens’ roster is more cluttered, so to speak. The question soon becomes whom to send down.

Has Dustin Jeffrey done anything to “earn” a trip back to W-B/S?  Maybe Chris Conner?  Maybe Eric Tangradi?  Johnson?

With the Baby Pens preparing for the playoffs themselves, just how many of the youngsters will GMRS and HCDB keep in Pittsburgh. even if a few of them may be in the press box (eating those hard

soft

pretzels, I might add) for most of the games once more players come back?

But here’s a bigger question:  Will HCDB dive into his virtual plethora of grinders to scratch in lieu of those youngsters that have been more offensively productive?

And let’s not forget the salary cap implications.  Remember, with both Crosby and Malkin on the shelf, the Penguins had a boatload of money available to acquire Neal, Niskanen and Kovalev.  But if Crosby comes back, the Pens may have to send a player or two simply for cap purposes.

As the Penguins get healthier and healthier, take a close look who HCDB is putting in his lineup and who’s getting scratched.

Filed in: , | The Confluence | Permalink
  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins

Comments

Avatar

With the AHL’s clear day rosters past us I’d imagine they’re all here to stay now.  We couldn’t send Johnson or tangradi down as they were on IR so unfortunately, more so for Johnson, they’ll be stuck here as they can’t participate in the AHL playoffs by not being on the clear day roster.

Posted by JBM on 03/24/11 at 03:01 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Yup, you’re absolutely right, forgot all about the clear day rosters….

See what I mean, not my year….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 03/24/11 at 03:04 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

Tony there is no cap once the playoffs start so having all of these players up on the roster won’t be a problem, just have to decide who plays and who sits. 

Like, JBM said Tangradi isn’t on the WBS clear day roster, so he will be up with the big club.  Jeffrey is listed on the roster but Shero indicated that he would remain with the club the rest of the year.

Posted by Russian Rocket on 03/24/11 at 03:06 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Yes, i realize that now.  My season-long brain cramp continues…

Still, tough lineup decisions to be made.

Which is a good thing…

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 03/24/11 at 03:14 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

getting Old Sucks Tony LOL Know it very well !!

Posted by Evilpens on 03/24/11 at 03:44 PM ET

Avatar

Seems like everything Jeffrey has done has merited keeping him up, producing at 0.5 points per game.

Tangradi, Johnson, and Comrie won’t see the ice unless there are more injuries.

Neal Crosby Dupuis
Kunitz Staal Kennedy
Jeffrey Letestu Kovalev
Rupp Talbot Adams
Asham/Conner

Dont’ think Crosby and Kovy will mesh.  One is GoGoGo the other is LoopDeLoo.
Conner is a competitor but he doesn’t score enough. Asham will replace whoever isn’t producing. 

Just as interesting is who sits on D when Orpik comes back.  Would like to see Lovejoy stay in the lineup, he hasn’t been a minus in 11 games, and I don’t like the way Niskanen tees up and tries for home run passes, but it’s hard to bench a guy you just traded for and pay 1.5 mill.  Granted, Engelland could become less of a factor in the playoffs but I am guessing he’ll stay in the lineup.

Posted by AceWhiplash on 03/24/11 at 03:51 PM ET

Tony's avatar

I wouldn’t negate Comrie so quickly….

I didn’t pretty damn well before his hip started acting up….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 03/24/11 at 03:55 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

I don’t know if Dupuis will get a shot again at the top two lines.  I think Kovy will be given a good look with Crosby and Neal or with Staal and TK if Kunitz or Neal will switch wings. 

Comrie is a wildcard and it’s really hard to judge where he will fit in.  I would imagine either a 2nd or 3rd line role.  Adams will most likely center the fourth line as Talbot has shown he can be more useful on the wing. 

Looking at the defence I have to imagine one of Engelland/Lovejoy will be the scratch and mostly depending on who they play and how physical said team is.  Fighting rarely happens in the playoffs so that hurts Engelland but he has come on as much more serviceable dman since the year started.

Posted by Russian Rocket on 03/24/11 at 04:14 PM ET

Avatar

Brad Thiessen was just called up, but I can’t find a reason yet, hopefully it’s to be a backup tonight for Fleury.

Posted by NathanBC on 03/24/11 at 04:35 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Flu that Niskanen Had going around the team ?

Posted by Evilpens on 03/24/11 at 04:43 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Upper body injury for Johnny….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 03/24/11 at 05:54 PM ET

Lindas1st's avatar

Good write-up Tony.

Posted by Lindas1st from New England on 03/24/11 at 06:21 PM ET

Avatar

Wilkes-barre’s fans must hate us.

Posted by steviesteve on 03/24/11 at 06:40 PM ET

Avatar

Posted by steviesteve on 03/24/11 at 05:40 PM ET
Why would they hate us?

If you’re talking about the Pittsburgh Penguins calling up their players and keeping a few, on blogs.citizensvoice.com/penguins/ the commentors have been real understanding that Wilkes-Barre is there to develop and supply Pittsburgh with players. Throughout the season I really haven’t seen any anger directed toward them, moreso some chuckles, like when the injuries were happening constantly in Pittsburgh.

Posted by NathanBC on 03/24/11 at 08:14 PM ET

Avatar

The fact that WBS has been so successful despite having the Pens deplete them to bolster their injured lineup is testament to how deep the Penguins organization really is.

Posted by VAHockeyFan on 03/25/11 at 11:57 AM ET

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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

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