Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, after returning from Russia, problably will practice with the club Monday after being excused today from the first post-lockout practice.
It's a given that Malkin will again skate with right winger James Neal. The two developed great chemistry last season, with Malkin getting 50 goals among his league-leading 109 points, and Neal reaching 40 goals. But what about the left side?
That's one of the more compelling questions of this preseason.
Chris Kunitz skated there much of last season because center Sidney Crosby was hurt a lot of the time. Kunitz was hardly a tag-along, but Crosby now has been reunited with Kunitz and right winger Pascal Dupuis, a top-line combination that has worked in past years. The three got even more time together as they were regulars at Southpointe in player-organized practices during the lockout.
That leaves an opening for a left winger on Malkin's line. Several names have been mentioned, but we now know who will get at least the first turn there.
Coach Dan Bylsma said today that Eric Tangradi will skate there in practice Monday. Tangradi is a budding power forward. Because of a training camp shortened to less than a week because of the lockout, being there on Malkin's first day of practice is an obvious advantage. If Tangradi fits well, Bylsma might be less inclined to give someone else a turn.
We, of course, will continue to follow this story line for you.
In the meantime, without Malkin, these were the lines today:
Matt Cooke-Brandon Sutter-Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass-Joe Vitale-Craig Adams
Beau Bennett-Jayson Megna-Brian Strait (a defenseman who got called to winger duty with the team short a forward)
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