BOSTON -- The Penguins traded for Marian Hossa because they wanted a goal-scoring winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby, and that's what Hossa will do.
But with Crosby recovering from a high ankle sprain, there's no telling when that will be, so Hossa is scheduled to work with Ryan Malone and Jordan Staal when the Penguins face Boston tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Coach Michel Therrien put that unit together for Hossa's first practice with the Penguins yesterday. Whether it will be productive remains to be seen, but Staal clearly doesn't mind standing in for Crosby.
- Matchup: Penguins at Boston Bruins, 7:08 p.m. today, TD Banknorth Garden.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh; WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Ty Conklin for Penguins. Tim Thomas for Bruins.
- Penguins: Are 2-1 against Boston, including 5-4 shootout victory at Garden Dec. 20. ... RW Tyler Kennedy does not have a goal in his past 10 games. ... D Ryan Whitney's next assist will be his 100th in NHL.
- Bruins: Own season-high four-game winning streak. ... Power play is on 8-for-22 run. ... Recorded 30 or more shots on goal in seven of past 10 games.
- Hidden stat: Penguins are 8-1 when RW Georges Laraque gets a point.
"I've seen [Hossa] play and I've played against him, so I know he's got great speed and great vision and makes great plays," Staal said. "I'm excited to get on the ice with him."
Hossa, meanwhile, believes that having large linemates such as Staal and Malone will work to his benefit.
"The big thing is their size," Hossa said. "They're really strong guys, and they're going to win lots of battles. I'm sure they're going to give me lots of pucks, and I'm going to give pucks back to them. That's what's important to my game."
Hossa and Pascal Dupuis were acquired from Atlanta minutes before the NHL trade deadline Tuesday. Dupuis played left wing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora yesterday.
Therrien said he intends to use Hossa and Dupuis to kill penalties tonight, although he might reconsider after learning that Hossa battled a flu-like ailment recently and is not yet back to full strength.
"I need to slowly get back into game shape," Hossa said. "Hopefully, I don't have to play too much right at the beginning, but, if they want me to, I'll try my best."
Newly acquired defenseman Hal Gill, meanwhile, will move into Rob Scuderi's spot on a pairing with Sergei Gonchar. The little finger on Scuderi's left hand was broken when he blocked a shot early in the Penguins' 4-2 victory Tuesday on Long Island, and he had surgery yesterday to repair the damage.
Scuderi, who inherited Mark Eaton's spot with Gonchar after Eaton's season was ended by a knee injury, is expected to be out three or four weeks.
There is a bit of history with the Gill-Gonchar pairing, dating to when they were Bruins teammates late in the 2003-04 season.
"I know him a little bit," Gill said. "We played together a few times."
Even so, their games won't necessarily mesh immediately.
"It's going to take some time to get used to each other," Gonchar said. "It's probably a little tougher for him, because he has to adjust to a new system, also."
Hossa and Dupuis must do that, too, and the Penguins' system isn't one Hossa figured he'd be trying to pick up in coming days. He was keenly aware that Montreal was regarded as the front-runner to pick him up as the deadline neared, with Ottawa a popular second choice.
"Definitely, there was more talk about those two Canadian teams," Hossa said. "But I was open-minded, ready for anything."
Hossa said he had "lots of linemates" with the Thrashers, for whom he put up 26 goals and 30 assists in 60 games this season.
While Staal (6 feet 4, 220 pounds) and Malone (6-4, 224 pounds) are bigger and stronger than most forwards, Hossa, at 6 feet 1, 208 pounds, doesn't have to rely strictly on finesse. He can -- and does -- bull past opponents on occasion.
"He's what a power forward is," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "He can beat you a lot of different ways. He's a big strong guy, and really skilled."
While some line combinations show an immediate chemistry, one practice usually isn't enough to determine if a group has the potential to be effective.
"You just go out there and kind of figure it out," Malone said.
Regardless of who he plays with until Crosby returns, however, Hossa will be counted on to help establish the Penguins as the elite team in the Eastern Conference.
"I thought we were, even before the trades," Sykora said.
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .