On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to face off against the St. Louis Blues in what looks to be an exciting non-conference matchup. The Penguins will surely be studying up on the Blues, who they see only a couple of times per season.
While the Penguins will be studying up on the game plan, there is one problem that the Pens’ coaching staff is going to have figure out and fast: how to get former MVP Evgeni Malkin to put more pucks in the net.
Malkin has been snake-bitten as of late. Over the past 10 games, the man that Pens fans call Geno has only scored once. He has a few assists in those games and has played very hard, but just cannot seem to find the back of the net. The coaching staff is even starting to acknowledge that this drought, which is the longest of Malkin’s career, is a problem that needs to be fixed and quickly.
This problem is caused by many factors. For one, Malkin is not playing with his regular winger James Neal, who has been injured since the first game of the regular season. He is looking to return possibly for the Penguins’ game next week against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins are also looking to get young winger Beau Bennett back in the lineup. This could also possibly help Malkin get on the score sheet with more offensive talent around him.
One solution that I think could work for the short term to get Malkin jump-started is putting winger Chris Kunitz back on Malkin’s line. Kunitz has been a fixture on Sidney Crosby’s line ever since Crosby returned from his concussions. The Crosby-Kunitz-Pascal Dupuis line has been arguably the best in hockey over the past two seasons.
However, before Crosby’s return and when Malkin won the Hart Trophy, Kunitz was on Malkin’s wing. Is it a coincidence that both of these lines have excelled with Kunitz on their wings? No, it is not.
I believe that keeping Crosby and Dupuis on the same line and possibly adding Bennett or Jussi Jokinen to that line will still keep it productive. Crosby can produce goals with anyone. Malkin, on the other hand, needs to have some consistency around him for once this season. Putting Kunitz on that line might be just what the doctor ordered.
Whatever the case may be, the Penguins’ coaching staff and Malkin himself need to figure out how to get one of the best players in the world back on track this season sooner rather than later.