During stretches when Matt Cooke, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy have played together for the Penguins, they have been labeled the best third line in the NHL.
Because of various circumstances, primarily injuries, the team's third line now features Max Talbot centering for Chris Conner and Pascal Dupuis. They might not get the same label, but coach Dan Bylsma called them the team's best line over the past three games.
They have combined for three of the team's nine goals plus three assists over those games, playing a speedy, sound, but not flashy style.
"The three of us kind of play the same way -- just hunt pucks," Talbot said Thursday.
That line also has racked up 17 hits, 23 shots and seven blocked shots over the past three games.
"I think it's about puck pursuit, tenacity and hard work," Dupuis said.
"We're three guys who are not going to quit on pucks and are tracking back."
They have found a knack for getting pucks to linemates behind the defense or at least with an open look at the net.
"We've got guys with good speed, and we can get to those pucks," Conner said.
"We're all willing to get in there, take a hit, go in the corner. We know the other guy's going to be there for support and help us out.
"When we get pucks behind the defense, it's a hard play to defense."
After the road game tonight against the New York Islanders, the Penguins finish the regular season with Sunday afternoon at Atlanta. By Sunday, they will know exactly how the game against the Thrashers will affect them, if at all.
That's because the team they primarily are chasing, Atlantic Division leader Philadelphia, will conclude its season Saturday night. So will most teams that have clinched or might clinch a spot in the postseason.
"That may mean there is some meaning in that [Atlanta] game. I do like that," Bylsma said, but he is more concerned about his team steaming ahead to try to secure all four remaining points.
"We know if we win a game, then we're guaranteed home ice [for the first round]," he said.
"We know we need Philly to lose two points for us to have a chance to catch them. We need to get two points in Long Island and move on to Atlanta."
The Penguins' regular taxi squad of forwards Cooke, Sidney Crosby, Eric Tangradi, and Nick Johnson skated before practice. The first three are coming off concussions; Cooke is under suspension. ... Simon Despres, the Penguins' 2009 first-round draft pick, was named the best defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In his fourth season of junior hockey, Despres, 19, had 13 goals, 41 points and was a plus-minus rating of plus-29 in 47 games.