Nov 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (left) and left wing Chris Kunitz (right) at the face-off circle against the New York Islanders during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins' Lines For Upcoming Season: How They Should Look

Nearly every Pittsburgh Penguins’ reporter, writer, fan is trying to picture how the team’s forward pairings will draw out for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign.

Its got to be even more difficult for head coach Mike Johnston, whose yet to even see the team dynamic up close, and who also has a handful of new faces on the roster.

Alas, I’ve decided to take my own stab at how I think the lines will shake out, and how I think they should be from my perspective.

While this is all dependent on if highly-touted prospect Kasperi Kapanen makes the team, here’s a look at how I anticipate Johnston arranging the four units:

  1. Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyPascal Dupuis
  2. Beau BennettEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist
  3. Nick SpalingBrandon SutterSteve Downie
  4. Blake ComeauMarcel GocCraig Adams

Much has been made on if Dupuis will be ready when the season starts, but he’s expecting to be there when the puck drops, and if he is, I can’t see Johnston putting him anywhere other than the top-line. Being a new coach, Johnston probably will want to see if the pairing of Crosby, Dupuis and Kunitz would still work, as it has in the past.

Due to the fact it’ll be the beginning of the season, Johnston in all likelihood won’t make drastic changes from last year’s lineup, just because I feel he wants to see what he’s got first. And that means Beau Bennett, because he’s got a history of playing with Malkin will be on the second-line, and Hornqvist, being a right-winger, will replace James Neal.

As for the bottom-six, Spaling is a center, but will most likely switch to the wing, given the team already has four centers, and because I’ve never heard of a fourth-liner pocketing $2.2 million annually. Plus, considering Spaling’s age and potential, creating a duo with Sutter seems only right. Johnston will also put Downie on the third, because, let’s face it, Adams isn’t anything other than a fourth-liner.

That’s the route I envision Johnston taking, but this is how I think they should be:

  1. Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Kasperi Kapanen
  2. Beau Bennett – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
  3. Nick Spaling – Brandon Sutter – Pascal Dupuis
  4. Zach Sill – Marcel Goc – Steve Downie

Yes, I truly believe Kapanen should crack the roster, and to make things even more interesting, I’ve placed him alongside Crosby. Getting the two acclimated sooner rather than later is what I think is in the best interest of the team. Of course, there’s worries over Kapanen’s age and relatively recent shoulder injury, but bypassing those concerns, he could be the Marian Hossa Crosby’s missed.

The second-line I’ve kept the same, and I think it should be those three players anyway.

Because Kapanen takes the right-wing slot, Dupuis moves to the third. I’m sincerely concerned for Dupuis; only because of his age and the serious injury he’s coming off. With that in mind, I’m not so sure putting him back on first-line duty is the right move here. So, pairing him up with Spaling and Sutter could form into a comfortable bond. I know from watching Sutter he’s not too speedy, so Dupuis should keep up.

The final pairing I’ve omitted Adams and Comeau. Personally, I think Comeau is a fine option, but Sill showed me so much desire and passion last season it makes me feel obligated to choose him over Comeau. Perhaps, that’s what Pittsburgh was lacking – passion. Sill executes everything you want out of a fourth-line hockey player, and deserves a starting slot. Downie is over Adams because of his scoring ability and speed.

Agree, disagree, but this is my wishes for how the Pens’ lines ought to be. I could see a few players being in other spots, and a couple who could start over others, yet I think they definitely, overall, have better depth at forward than last year.

We are so freakin’ close to training camp. We’ll find out soon.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins

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