Mar 22, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) reacts after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Johnston To Experiment Playing Pascal Dupuis With Evgeni Malkin

The continued perplexity at how the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lines will look hasn’t changed, and head coach Mike Johnston isn’t quite sure how they’ll compose either.

According to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Johnston is reportedly set to experiment multiple different line combinations this September, but is interested to see if Pascal Dupuis can ultimately be Evgeni Malkin‘s winger.

Here’s what Johnston told Molinari:

“You’ve got Dupuis, obviously, coming back. He can play anywhere in the lineup. He certainly has played well with Sid before. Can he play well with [Malkin]? That’s what we’ve got to see.”

Dupuis, who’s coming off ACL surgery, is a complete and utter question mark as to where he’ll fit in with the rest of the Pens’ forwards. Johnston acknowledged Dupuis’ experience on the top-line, but throwing him back onto first pairing duties may be a stretch considering it’ll take him some time to gain his speed back.

And that’s part of the reason why I don’t believe Dupuis should be in the top-six at all: his speed, plus lack of recent game-action.

Johnston, however, feels Patric Hornqvist could also be Malkin’s right-winger, per Molinari:

“Hornqvist will be a guy we’ll watch closely in camp. I think he might be a guy who could play really well with [Malkin], but again, we’ve got to take a look at where everybody fits in.”

This idea, I like.

Obviously, James Neal‘s departure meant Hornqvist was to replace him, right? I mean, sure, Hornqvist can play with Crosby, but that leaves Malkin with nobody. Crosby’s got Chris Kunitz, and Malkin has … uh … Beau Bennett? That’s not the right blueprint if you want cohesive balance.

Because Johnston is a rookie NHL head coach, it wouldn’t surprise me if he put Dupuis back with Crosby and Kunitz – at least for the beginning of the season to see if they still gel well. Although, in the long run, putting Dupuis with Brandon Sutter on the third-line seems more rational.

Nonetheless, it sounds like Johnston will make the proper adjustments if need be. And that’s why Jim Rutherford hired him.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins

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