Stempniak getting results with Crosby, Kunitz

23 Comments

Pittsburgh went all out during the 2013 trade deadline, getting forwards Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Jussi Jokinen as well as defenseman Douglas Murray. That wasn’t enough to earn the Penguins the Stanley Cup though and with the team close to the cap ceiling, they took a subtler approach this time.

They recently acquired Lee Stempniak for a third round pick and while that was a minor move compared to other team’s dealings, it might prove to be just what the Penguins needed.

Pittsburgh has been interested in acquiring a right winger to pair up with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz since Pascal Dupuis suffered a season-ending knee injury and so far Stempniak has filled that void. He had three assists in Pittsburgh’s back-to-back victories against Washington.

“It’s gone pretty well,” Stempniak told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The three of us on the bench just have an open dialogue on what each other is thinking.

“Part of if for me is trying not to force the puck to Sid too much. I think the first couple of games I’d get it and try and throw it to him. He’s covered sometimes. He’s a great player, but it’s not always the right play to give it to him.”

Pittsburgh is playing for the Eastern Conference title, but with 17 games left, the Penguins have already essentially secured the Metropolitan Division. That makes this final month more about getting ready for the playoffs than anything else. In Stempniak’s case, it’s an opportunity to get comfortable with the team.

He’s not likely going to be headline-worthy most nights, but if he can compliment Crosby, then Pittsburgh will be very happy with how it did at the deadline.