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NHL Pittsburgh Penguins

Possible Line Combos & D-Pairings For Pittsburgh Penguins

Pitt

Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY SPORTS

As you (hopefully) know, the NHL lockout is over, and will be underway in no more than 2 weeks. Before you know it, camp will be here and gone, and then the puck will be dropped. It’s time to start thinking about line combinations, defensive pairings, and maybe, depending on which team it is, the goaltending situation.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have yet to acquire or sign an elite-caliber winger for captain Sidney Crosby, so that will push a bottom-6 forward into the top-6. Considering the Pens don’t make any roster changes such as trading or signing a free agent, I anticipate the lines will look like this:

Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal

Matt Cooke – Sidney Crosby – Tyler Kennedy

Tanner Glass – Brandon Sutter – Pascal Dupuis

Dustin Jeffrey – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams

If Eric Tangradi were to be inserted into the lineup and Joe Vitale was scratched, this is what the lines could look like:

Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal

Tyler Kennedy – Sidney Crosby – Eric Tangradi

Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Pascal Dupuis

Tanner Glass – Craig Adams – Dustin Jeffrey

The problem that arises with this lineup is that Tanner Glass is stuck on the 4th line, and not on the checking line where many people think he belongs. I can’t imagine head coach Dan Bylsma would put Pascal Dupuis on the 4th line to make room for Glass, but there’s always the possibility. It’s really a toss-up, it will be decided by who performs the best between them to see who will crack the lineup and who will be riding the pine.

There are many people who believe the dominant Kunitz – Malkin – Neal line will be broken up. If that were to be the case, here is my suggested lineup:

Eric Tangradi – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal

Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis

Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy

Tanner Glass – Craig Adams – Dustin Jeffrey

This lineup once again leaves Tanner Glass on the 4th line, but does give Eric Tangradi a chance to prove himself with the big boys.

With defenseman Zbynek Michalek gone, this is what the defensive pairings could look like:

Paul Martin – Kris Letang

Brooks Orpik – Deryk Engelland

Ben Lovejoy – Matt Niskanen

There isn’t much to say about the pairings. I expect youngster Simon Despres to be the 7th defenseman.

If there is going to be 50 games instead of 48, I’d say goalie Marc-Andre Fleury gets around 33-35 starts, unless he flounders at the beginning of the season. Bylsma will not be hesitant to give Tomas Vokoun, a well-r0unded veteran, the job until Fleury regathers himself.

I could be completely wrong about everything, but this is what I would like to see, and think it’s a possibility that we could see it. All of that aside, let’s go Pens!

Follow Danny Shirey @_DSHY