If Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen gets his chance to line up alongside Evgeni Malkin — and James Neal for that matter — he could be in for a big year.
Jokinen, who was acquired by the Pens for a conditional pick from the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline, is a left-wing — which is what the second-line is lacking for the upcoming season.
Shifted around the lineup due to player injuries and unfamiliarity of where skaters best fit, Jokinen had put up better production in the ten games he played for Pittsburgh during the regular-season than in the 33 contests prior with Carolina.
The 30-year-old Fin registered 11 points (7G, 4A) and skated to a plus-3 rating with Pittsburgh, which was the same amount of points he put up with the Canes, but he skated to a miserable minus-8.
Jokinen played with new linemates almost every game and still posted sufficient numbers — imagine what he could do if he spent an entire season on Malkin’s line.
Not only would he be playing with better players all year long, but he’ll have time to develop chemistry — something he wasn’t able to accomplish in the little time he had with the club last season.
A couple years ago Jokinen was a prolific scorer, racking up goals and assists a top-six forward would normally contribute.
At the conclusion to his 2009-10 season, Jokinen tallied 30 goals — which was the most he’s ever potted — and he compiled 65 points, which was also the most he’s ever scored.
He declined slightly over the next two campaigns, scoring 52 and then 46 points — but he also wasn’t skating with Malkin and Neal.
Understandably speaking, Malkin is a skater who creates his own luck, which means he doesn’t really need any superstar linemates because he’s one of the top-3 hockey players in the NHL.
However, we also saw what Malkin could do when he had Chris Kunitz on his line along with Neal — he did so well he went on to win the Hart trophy (MVP) that season.
And because the organization must find a spot to put Jokinen, the vacancy on the left side of Malkin’s line indicates the perfect position for him.
We’ll see where Jokinen officially lines up come opening day, but he belongs on the second-line because that’s where he’s going to help the team most.