Malkin Neal

Pens to audition linemates for Malkin and Neal


The golden opportunity to skate alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal — who combined for 90 goals and 190 points last season — will be given to a number of Pittsburgh forwards, according to head coach Dan Bylsma.

“That spot with Malkin and James is going to be open and situational,” Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “But it‘s going to be open to somebody claiming that spot and making it permanent, too.”

With Malkin entrenched at center and Neal at right wing last year, third wheel duties often fell to Chris Kunitz, who responded with a career-high 26 goals.

That said, Bylsma wants Kunitz on a line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis — the trio were dynamite together in 2010-11 — and a different Penguin to play with Malkin and Neal.

So…who are the candidates?

Bylsma’s narrowed the field to Tyler Kennedy, Tanner Glass and Matt Cooke — but also didn’t rule out Brandon Sutter, saying he “wouldn’t anchor” Sutter into the No. 3 center spot behind Crosby and Malkin.

If you’re taking bets (and if you are, seek help), the smart money’s on Kennedy to get the gig. He’s a right-handed shot and scored 21 goals two years ago, so he’s got enough offensive prowess to at least hang with the big guns.

Oh, and if you’re gunning for a longshot, do consider what Bylsma had to say about Glass:

Glass, a left winger signed from Winnipeg last summer, has scored just 13 NHL goals. Bylsma said he would play “if we‘re winning.”

Okay then!

Tough start: Lehner knocked out of Sabres debut, won’t return

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner
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Chances are Robin Lehner won’t look back fondly on his first game as a Sabre.

Midway through Buffalo’s season-opener against Ottawa, Lehner — facing his old team for the first time since getting traded this summer — suffered a lower-body injury, and was forced from the contest.

During the second intermission, the Sabres ruled out Lehner for the night.

It was a difficult turn of events for 24-year-old, who admitted he was keen to go up against the Sens. He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his time in the Canadian capital; Lehner felt he never got a full opportunity to run with the No. 1 gig, and probably wasn’t thrilled GM Bryan Murray opted to keep Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond instead of him.

As for tonight’s injury, details are scarce. All that’s known is the ailment was serious enough for Lehner to leave and not return, forcing backup Chad Johnson into duty.

Prior to getting hurt, Lehner had stopped 11 of 12 shots faced.


‘Canes lose Wisniewski (lower body) 47 seconds into debut

Phil Kessel, James Wisniewski
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James Wisniewski‘s time as a Carolina Hurricane is off to a troubling start.

Wisniewski, acquired by the ‘Canes at this year’s draft, exited Thursday’s season-opener against Nashville early in the first period with a lower-body injury.

Shortly thereafter, the team ruled out his return.

Wisniewski, 31, was expected to play a fairly significant role on Carolina’s defense this year.

It’s unclear what the injury is or how severe it might be, but initial reports don’t sound good; Wisniewski appeared to be in significant pain and had to be helped off the ice.