Key Observations Heading Into Game 13 Between the Penguins and Sabres

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By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)

Evgeni Malkin needs a new linemate.  He’s done great work this season as he’s amasses 16 points (5g-11a) during his 11-game point streak but now that the streak is finished it’s time for us to acknowledge some things.  Most of those points, 68.8% to be exact, have come on the power play.  That’s great and all, but that means that no goals and only five assists have come at even strength.  Some of this has to do with the fact that he’s spent a quarter of his even strength ice time not playing his natural center position.  When he moved back to center he’s had Pascal Dupuis and Blake Comeau as his wings.

Dupuis is probably not a problem.  Since 2009, his first full season in Pittsburgh, Dupuis has totaled 70 goals and 165 points with a 51.6% Corsi.  When he’s on the ice the Penguins have scored 58.4% of goals at even strength.  This season he has nine points (4g-5a) in 12 games.

Blake Comeau is a different story.  While he’s a decent hockey player that will combine skill with the “grit and character” that the team was looking for this past summer, he’s not a top-six forward.  He’s only reached double-digit goals twice in his career, the most recent being the 2010-2011 season with the Islanders.  Over the course of his career he’s been a negative possession player, although only barely with a 48.7% Corsi.  That kind of play is fine for a bottom-six role, but a center like Evgeni Malkin needs more.

Rumors of a trade have been making the rounds this week, but before the Penguins give up any assets for a winger they should wait to see what happens with Beau Bennett.  He’s had an injury-riddled career, but his luck has to turn around at some point, right?  Since playing his first game in 2013, Bennett has only six goals and 21 points in 47 games.  Injuries and time in Dan Bylsma’s doghouse have prevented Bennett from having a breakout season.  However, he’s only 22.  He has the size, speed, and hands to play with someone like Evgeni Malkin.  He’s a positive possession player with a career 52% Corsi.  With Malkin that number jumps up to 58.1%.  With Bennett on the second line, Comeau can go down to either the third or fourth line and Zach Sill and his four shots on goal can go somewhere else.  The team, without making a move, becomes more complete.