Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Beau Bennett has had a tough time staying healthy.
Missing a total of 46 contests this season, Bennett hasn’t been on the ice long enough to develop any rhythm, begging the question of how he’ll produce when he’s expected to return following the Olympic break.
Bounced around between lines one-through-three, Bennett has only garnered three points (1G, 2A) through 12 games, and is in all likelihood going to resume playing on the top-line alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
For the most part, call-up Brian Gibbons has performed effectively on that first unit, however, isn’t likely to be a mainstay on the line – or possibly even the roster. Which I think he should at least play a role on the third-line, considering he can create a plethora of offensive chances.
I digress. Bennett’s re-insertion brings a lot of questions.
Is he capable of staying off the injured reserve for the remainder of the season? Will he be able to create continuity alongside Crosby-Kunitz? Will he even be slotted with them? Is he going to be timid, given this is his second hand/wrist injury over the last few years?
And let’s not forget, the trade deadline is approaching. General manager Ray Shero not only is caught in a pickle as-far-as debating on adding a top-line right winger, but he’s got little time to decide, which means Bennett’s productivity, or at least potential, is critical coming out of the gate. The more he contributes, it decreases the chances Shero pursues that void.
Bennett seemed to be amidst a minor sophomore slump before he went down on Nov. 22, and there’s a possibility it could carry over into March. With that being said, it’s hard to feel comfortable in him moving forward. No one can doubt he has the potential, which he clearly displayed last season, but this campaign he’s doused with peculiarity.
Do I believe Bennett can succeed this season on the top-line? Yes. Do the Pens’ believe this? Yes. But the amount of time he’s missed concerns me.
Bennett’s period for getting up to game-speed will take a little time, and before he knows it, the postseason will arrive. Although he participated in the playoffs last season, he was scratched a lot as well – so, his postseason experience is minimal. And for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the playoffs are the ultimate judge of their season.
Four consecutive grueling playoff ousters – as if any elimination is a good one – Bennett’s goal-scoring game, in my opinion, is going to be a determining factor in how far they go. He adds another dimension to Pittsburgh’s lineup when he tickles the twine. On top of that, if he gets going, it will add balance to a team that’s had a difficult time scoring beyond the first and second lines.
There’s a good amount of perplexity with Bennett. The injuries have certainly stalled his progression, and there’s no telling what he’ll muster once he inevitably returns.
When he does jump off the injury shelf, I expect him to be on the top-line on Feb. 27 though. Better to place him back into that pairing to get him acclimated faster, rather than easing him in on different lines.
We’ll have a good idea where Bennett’s at after a few games. I know I’ll be closely paying attention.