Solving The Pens Fourth-Line Mystery


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

With the top two lines basically penciled in — except for one of Malkin’s wingers — the Pittsburgh Penguins are still blank on who will fill out the rest of their lineup.

And to be more specific, their fourth-line.

Craig Adams, who was re-signed to a two-year contract this summer, will in all likelihood resume his role as the right-wing for the last line.

So we know that there’s at least one set skater for the last three; however, the center and left-wing are up in the air right now.

One would assume Joe Vitale will be the center, but because he had inconsistent play in terms of taking bad penalties and lackadaisical puck management, he hasn’t solidified anything.

We can however predict Vitale has a better shot than any of the newcomers — and some current skaters — because he has been in the system, and is one-of-four registered centers on the active roster.

Despite only playing in 33 games and recording just five points (2G, 3A) last season, Vitale looks like a lock to play the fourth-line center role.

Unless of course, the Pens decide to trade for another center, or use one of the players they signed this summer to two-way deals.

Nick Drazenovic and Andrew Ebbett, who were recently signed to contracts by the Pens, are not guaranteed a roster spot — but because the Pens want to create competition for Vitale, their label as centermen boost the idea.

The only obstacle that’s looking gloomy as-far-as them making the lineup, is that neither one of them had great success last season.

Or at least not any better than how Vitale performed.

Drazenovic, 26, skated in the AHL for the most part last season.  When he did play in the NHL (for the Columbus Blue Jackets), he played in eight games and failed to record a point.

Ebbett, 30, played in 28 games for the Vancouver Canucks; however, he managed to log only six points (1G, 5A) and skated to a minus-1 rating.

While Ebbett performed in more games than Drazenovic, it wasn’t by much, and so they’ll each need to drastically prove to the staff during training camp that they’re worthy enough to lead the fourth-line.

As for left wing, even though there are more candidates, it’ll seemingly be between either Tanner Glass or Dustin Jeffrey.

Glass, 29, skated the full 48-game season for the Pens last campaign, but didn’t play particularly well.

Registering two points (1G, 1A) and skating to a horrible minus-11 rating, Glass isn’t the first option for the left side job, but he at least gives them one.

Jeffrey, 25, scored six points (3G, 3A) in 24 contests, and is the more intriguing piece to the puzzle.

Although he’s not a well-known household name, Jeffrey has never gotten the chance to play a full season with Pittsburgh — partly due to injury.

Should Jeffrey get the chance to build chemistry and confidence, he just might turn out to be the needle in a haystack this season.

Nobody knows for sure whose going to be Pittsburgh’s last three forwards except Pittsburgh.

Adams is a lock, and possibly Vitale — that much is certain.

We’ll have to wait and see where the team decides to go with their fourth-line center and left-wing.