Sullivan jumbles the lines, hoping to ‘stumble on’ a solution


Keep an eye on the Penguins’ line combinations tonight in Boston, because new head coach Mike Sullivan has been doing some experimenting.

For instance, yesterday at practice, winger Phil Kessel found himself skating on the third line with Daniel Sprong and Eric Fehr. This morning, however, Kessel was back in the top six on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Plotnikov.

Patric Hornqvist, meanwhile, was dropped all the way to the bottom three:

If you’re wondering where Nick Bonino was, he’s not feeling well and may or may not play tonight. Just another variable in all this.

“I’m just trying to explore a little bit and see what we might stumble on,” Sullivan said, per The Beaver County Times. “We have a lot of options, a lot of pieces up front that we can interchange. We have to find a way to generate more offense, score more goals, maybe create more balance.”

Sullivan is obviously aware that his team needs to start scoring more. That’s why he’s in charge now.

Also obvious, Sidney Crosby has been the most glaring under-performer, with just six goals and 13 assists in 29 games. His 19 points are still good enough for second in team scoring, but his production is well below his regular pace of at least a point per game.

Oh, and lest anyone think Crosby is simply experiencing a run of bad shooting luck, his possession stats suggest it’s more than that. Without getting too much into the numbers, he has a negative relative Corsi. That’s just not something that we’re used to seeing.

One thing Sullivan could always try? Putting Crosby and Malkin together. That’s not ideal for various reasons, but then, neither is status quo. At this point, all options should be on the table.

At five-on-five this season, Crosby has spent the most time with veteran wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, the latter of whom has been forced to end his career due to blood clots.

Related: Penguins focused on cleaner breakouts