GDHQNHL15_2pg-Pittsburgh Penguins 1

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Pittsburgh PENGUINS Key Additions: RW Patric Hornqvist; C Nick Spaling; RW Steve Downie; RW Blake Comeau; GM Jim Rutherford; Head Coach Mike Johnston Key Subtractions: RW James Neal; LW Jussi Jokinen; D Mats Niskanen; C Brian Gibbons; C Joe Vitale; D Brooks Orpik; GM Ray Shero; Head Coach Dan Bylsma Strengths: Scoring, power play, shootouts Weaknesses: Postseason underachievement, physical play Offense Pittsburgh is one of the very few teams that could lose its fourth, fifth and sixth-leading scorers, including its top-scoring defenseman, and still boast one of the most potent attacks around. That’s what happens when you have people like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz around. The three combined for 94 goals last year, even though Crosby played much of the year with an injured wrist, and Malkin missed 22 games because of a leg injury. Crosby, of course, is the key to everything. The world’s best player has the ability to create for himself and his teammates, and his sense of timing and ability to deliver in the clutch are exceptional. When completely healthy, he has the ability to approach 50 goals. Last year, he had 36, and his 68 assists and 104 points led the league. Crosby won the Hart, Ross and Ted Lindsay Trophies and cemented further his status as the NHL’s best. Malkin is another big producer who has twice led the NHL in total points. Although his past two seasons have been below par (for him), due to injuries, he is extremely dangerous and gives Pittsburgh the luxury of having two dynamic centers leading a pair of potent lines. Kunitz benefits greatly from playing next to Crosby, and last year he established a personal high with 35 goals. A solid defensive forward who is strong on the power play and had a team-high game-winners last year, Kunitz is quite a weapon to have. The Pens made some big changes behind their main scorers, swapping out James Neal and Jussi Jokinen for Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling, Steve Downie and Blake Comeau. Hornqvist scored 22 times last year and had 30 goals in 2009-10, while Spaling hit the next on 13 occasions. They should help, but it would be even bigger if Pascal Dupuis came back 100 percent from his knee injury to work a full year on the first line. The Pens hope to get help from youngsters Beau Bennett and Kaspari Kapanen, last year’s first-round pick. Defense Pittsburgh should be plenty strong on its first two tandems, but depth could be a problem. Letting Brooks Orpik and Mats Niskanen, last year’s top-scoring defenseman, go was somewhat curious. Although the Pens were eighth in fewest goals allowed last year, they have never been known as an extremely stingy outfit, and that’s unlikely to change under new coach Mike Johnston, who wants to play fast and up-tempo. The Penguins did import a new front-line defenseman, veteran Christian Ehrhoff, who didn’t exactly overwhelm people last year in EASTERN CONFERENCE METROPOLITAN DIVISION Sidney Crosby Gregory Shamus/NHL/Getty Images;


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