Pittsburgh Penguins Proving Their Depth Is Non-Issue Through First Month

By Jeff Ekiert
Brandon Sutter, Jussi Jokinen, Chris Conner
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In time a time of need, the Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be getting production from all four lines, reminiscent to the Chicago Blackhawks who are dangerous from top to bottom. Even after facing adversity during the first month, the Penguins keep finding ways to win and continue to dominate the Metropolitan Divison.

With James Neal and Beau Bennett out of the equation and still no timetable for their return, others have been picking up the slack over the past few games.

During their three-game winning streak, Pittsburgh has outscored their opponents 10-5, after a three-game skid of being outscored 9-4.

Chris Kunitz has been getting it done on the power play and has scored in three-straight games. Jayson Megna, who has been seeing a lot of time on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen, has a pair of goals and an assist.

The fourth line of Craig Adams, Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale was already off to a good start this season, but the third line has been beginning to pick things up as of late despite the injuries.

After losing Chuck Kobasew with a lower body injury this past week, Brandon Sutter has scored in consecutive games and is beginning to come into his own as the calender turns.

“It’s always exciting to get a couple and get the monkey off the back,” Sutter said after their 4-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday. “We know we have some skilled players who can make plays and our powerplay was good tonight. When those two things are going, we’ve got a good chance.”

Sutter is in his second season with the Penguins after they brought him in from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Jordan Staal deal. His role has been to fill in that third-line center position with expectations of a 15-to-20-goal campaign. In 2012, he scored 11 goals and 19 points in the shortened 48-game season.

Pittsburgh (10-4-0) now has a seven-point lead over second-place Carolina in the division going into Saturday night, but they enter a month where they will play nine-of-15 on the road.

Aside from the offensive depth shown, the Penguins are looking like a threat in the East with Marc-Andre Fleury standing on his head this season. The team has shown weaknesses on the back end limiting the number of shots on goal, but so far, Fleury feels they are doing a good job clearing rebounds and keeping the high number of shots to the outside.

Columbus outshot Pittsburgh 39-27 Friday, and 16-9 in the first period alone.

“As a team, we’ve got to crack down a bit on our turnovers,” Sutter said.

With Rob Scuderi out of the lineup with a broken ankle, the Penguins look for their forwards do a better job at getting the puck out of the zone.

Last year, one of the best aspects of Pittsburgh’s game was the ability of moving the puck up ice by simply supporting each other off the boards. This proved to be beneficial for the Penguins as it allowed them to rush through the neutral zone and keep the shots against down.

Overall, it has been an impressive and promising start to the season for head coach Dan Bylsma‘s team as they look to build off their strong start. So far, things seem to be going the way they should. Sidney Crosby is 100 percent and dominating as the NHL‘s top scorer, and Fleury’s 10 wins rank first; and all of this is being done without some of their key players.

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