Mar. 22, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Joe Vitale (46) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Vitale To Center The Fourth-Line?


While the question as to who the Pittsburgh Penguins bottom-six forwards will be remains, theres a realistic chance that forward Joe Vitale is going to center the fourth-line.

Vitale, 27, was drafted by the Pens in the seventh-round (195th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and has been used for the most part as a utility guy.

Scratched in multiple contests during the beginning of the 2013 postseason, Vitale would eventually be inserted into the lineup for Game 5 against the New York Islanders in round-one — seeking to match the speed of the Isles.

Making an immediate impact, Vitale provided the Pens with exactly that — countering an uptempo style of play with their uptempo style.

However, he wouldn’t see much playing time following that game, as he would go on to skate in the final contest of that series and perform in just four more games the rest of the playoffs.

In six postseason outings, Vitale registered just one assist, and skated to an overall minus-1 rating — but was overall a positive start each time he hit the ice.

Although Vitale isn’t going to wow the organization in point production, he fits the systems plan of attack and maintains a sufficient forecheck — one that the Pens desperately need to reinforce.

And while Pittsburgh could still look elsewhere to fill that fourth-line center void, they only have two other active roster players who qualify — Nick Drazenovic and Andrew Ebbett.

Both of which were signed this summer, and each of whom were bounced back-and-forth between the AHL and the NHL last season.

Combining their statistics together, the two centers played in a total of 36 regular-season contests and scored six points — which barely beats out Vitale’s numbers.

However, as I’ve pointed out before, it isn’t about scoring production — so who knows, Drazenovic and/or Ebbett could start as the fourth-line center.

It’s just a point to make that Vitale played in just three games less than those two combined, and he had just one less point than them.

Even though the Pens have yet to see what each newcomer could offer, Vitale seems to be the right guy for the job — considering his history with the organization and his knowledge towards the game-plan.

We’ll have to see how Pittsburgh decides to go with this — but my money is on Vitale.

In 33 regular-season contests for the Pens last season, Vitale logged five points (2G, 3A) and skated to a minus-7 rating.


Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Forest Marsden

    If Joe Vitale or the other two mentioned centers are a starter on any line on
    your team you arent deep enough to win a Cup. He is the classic minor league player. Not going to work against teams like Boston, Chicago, even the up and coming Isles come playoff time.

    • Mrchady

      Teams like Boston and Chicago aren’t as strong as they were last year. That doesn’t fly. Both teams and pretty much every team in the league at the top have taken a few steps back because of the cap being lowered! If Shero didn’t add the 3 slow aged vets at the deadline, they would have made a hell of a better impact against Boston in the playoffs with their speed. Which is what they were winning games with before the deadline.

  • Derrick Graffius

    I’m going with Jokinen to Center the 4th line. Sure, he could be traded for Cap relief, but I don’t see them parting with him willingly. Although if he isn’t the 4th Line C (either traded or playing 2nd/3rd line) I would much rather see Jeffrey, Sill, Ebbett, or Drazenovic, or even Adams back in the middle, before I want to see Vitale out there.

    • Forest Marsden

      I dont think they can afford to trade Jokinen. he is the only thing after the top two lines that is NHL caliber, though he is better on the top two lines or filling in there at center

    • Mrchady

      To win hockey games you need possession of the puck to score. Putting Adams at center over Vitale would be disastrous. Adams will never be center again. He’s lucky the cap went down, otherwise he wouldn’t even be on the team still.