Sidney Crosby Concussion: Predicting the Penguins Roster Without Sid the Kid
With the Penguins lineup pretty much set after a relatively quiet free-agency season, it'll be interesting to see how the Pens' lineup will stack up on opening night in Vancouver without Crosby.
Here's a quick glance at what the Penguins lines will look like without Sid the Kid.
Line 1: Dupuis-Malkin-Neal
Evgeni Malkin will assume the role as the team's first-line center with Crosby out of the lineup. Ideally, he'll be the playmaker for scoring winger James Neal. In fact, it'll be his first time playing with the winger, who was acquired from the Dallas Stars last season when Malkin was hurt.
The Penguins will try different line combinations during training camp and preseason to see which players mesh best with Malkin. But as of now, based on his reputation as a scorer, Neal would play on Malkin's right side.
On the left, Pascal Dupuis would bring his cannon slap shot, blazing speed and uncanny ability to play defense to the first line. Dupuis has scored close to 20 goals in the past two seasons playing alongside Crosby, so there is no doubt he knows how to score goals.
His speed will also help on the backcheck so that the defense doesn't become a liability when the first line is one the ice.
Line 2: Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy
Jordan Staal is a fantastic two-way player, so Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy can focus on feeding off each other and making offensive plays. Staal can take care of the backchecking and defense, while also trying to feed the puck to his wingers when the puck is in the opponents' zone.
Tyler Kennedy was able to have a career year last season even with Crosby out for half of the season. It'll be interesting to see if he can keep that up in 2011-12.
Chris Kunitz was also a major contributor with Crosby out of the lineup scoring, but his production fell without him in the lineup. He and Kennedy will have to find the net if the Penguins want to win the tough Atlantic Division.
Line 3: Cooke-Letestu-Sullivan
Steve Sullivan was brought into Pittsburgh in order to score some goals, but more importantly, to be the veteran leader for a team that is still very young. The regular season is a long and arduous journey, and throughout the bumps in the road, a leader needs to right the ship. Mark Recchi did this for the Bruins last year, and Bill Guerin was that man for the Penguins back in 2009.
With Crosby out, it will be Sullivan's job to keep the Penguins' focus on the game. It also wouldn't hurt if he put some pucks in the net.
It will be nice if Matt Cooke stayed disciplined because he really is a very valuable player for the Penguins and could provide a spark to the team. He's a first-class agitator and grinder. It will be his job to make this line tough to play against.
As for Mark Letestu, it was fantastic to see him thrive under Dan Bylsma's offense. He scored 14 goals and 13 assists in his first season. Without Crosby, the Penguins can never get enough of secondary scoring, so Letestu will have his hands full.
Line 4: Asham-Adams-Park
The Penguins brought in Richard Park recently to be a penalty-killing specialist now that Max Talbot is gone. He'll probably play sparingly in even strength situations.
Craig Adams has always been a great leader and fighter for the Penguins. He also has a knack of scoring big goals when it matters most.
Finally, Arron Asham is going to be the guy to drop the gloves and stir up trouble.
This trio isn't going to get plenty of goals, but they'll make the Penguins a tougher team to play against by getting opponents tired, agitated and frustrated.