When star players are injured, a team is forced to try new things. In the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, this last preseason game stands as testament. Just before the game, left wing Jake Guentzel tested positive for COVID-19. Of course, he couldn’t play in the game and his spot that was almost certainly on the first line had to be filled by someone else. Did it work? Well, let’s just say it looks like the Penguins found their new first line for some time.
Who’s On The Line?
Because Guentzel couldn’t play, it looked like anyone could’ve been thrown on Jeff Carter‘s left wing. Bryan Rust was already assigned to the right wing, so who would be on the left? Pittsburgh could’ve gone the safe route and put in Jason Zucker or Kasperi Kapanen, at least some player that’s played a game for the Penguins. Instead, they opted to try something new and put Danton Heinen in Guentzel’s spot.
Pittsburgh signed Heinen to a one-year, $1.1 million contract in free agency this offseason. This wasn’t really anything to write home about. Fans knew he was being signed as a depth forward, and he likely wouldn’t be putting up big numbers after he struggled last season. It may be fair to say after his performance with Rust and Carter, Heinen will be on the opening roster.
How’d They Do?
This line was deadly all night. They started the scoring off early as Carter’s shot whipped past Detroit Red Wings’ goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic less than four minutes into the first period. Both Rust and Heinen assisted on the goal. Heinen also assisted on Kapanen’s powerplay goal later in the first. Despite an already strong start, they were just getting started.
Heinen apparently wanted in on the scoring, because that’s exactly what he did 15 minutes into the second period. Both Rust and Carter were credited with assists. In total, that line contributed to four of the five goals the Penguins scored against Detroit. There was some obvious chemistry and they clearly played well together. This should come as a sigh of relief for the organization.
Things were looking bad for Pittsburgh in regards to the start of the regular season. Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going to be out, so it was unclear who’s going to be on what line. Fortunately, it looks like the first line is covered with Carter, Heinen and Rust. Now, all the Penguins have to do is experiment some more and ideally they find who’s going to be on the second before the season begins.
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