Penguins notebook: Hornqvist accepts move to left wing, where he never has played before
January 13, 2016 12:00 AM
Paul Chiasson/Associated Press
Pittsburgh Penguins' Patric Hornqvist celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens with teammate Phil Kessel during the second period of a game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Montreal.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
RALEIGH, N.C. — Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist has shuttled between the top three lines for most of this season.
But his latest move — from the right side to the left — is a new one for him.
Hornqvist had no experience on left wing before coach Mike Sullivan placed him there recently, on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
“We thought he could help [Malkin] and Phil, with his skill set,” Sullivan said before the Penguins faced Carolina Tuesday night at PNC Arena. “[Malkin] and Phil, I think, have a little bit of chemistry developing.
“[Hornqvist] is a guy who goes to the net when they shoot the puck. He plays in the trenches. He helps them retrieve pucks. … That skill set, with those two guys, potentially could help that line.”
Sullivan said he decided to deploy Hornqvist there because he didn’t want to break up the Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-David Perron line and had no other real options for a left winger with Malkin and Kessel.
“I know he hasn’t played the left side,” Sullivan said. “I asked him if he could play it, and he said he could make that adjustment.
“I don’t think it’s ideal for his scenario. But certainly, I admire the fact he’s willing to do what it takes for the team.”
Winds of change
Relations between the Penguins and Hurricanes traditionally have been pretty good, but hit a rough spot a couple of days ago.
The teams are scheduled to play at 3:08 p.m. Sunday at Consol Energy Center, and the Penguins wanted to move the starting time up two hours to avoid a conflict with the Steelers’ AFC divisional playoff game in Denver.
The Hurricanes declined, primarily because of a TV rights-holder issue that would have prevented the game from being televised in their home market and because the Carolina Panthers have an NFC playoff game that starts at 1:05.
Hurricanes officials declined to discuss the situation publicly, but noted that they were willing to play the game at 8 p.m. The Penguins declined that offer, they said, presumably because they have a game Monday night in St. Louis.
What angered the Hurricanes is that when the Penguins announced that the starting time would not be changed, their press release said only that “Carolina was not able to accommodate the request” to play at 1 p.m., but did not mention that the Penguins rejected the Hurricanes’ proposal for a later start.
Jordan Staal on Crosby
Carolina center Jordan Staal, a Penguins alum, was among the many who noticed that Crosby failed to put up points at his customary pace through the early months of the season.
He suggested Tuesday that while he wasn’t shocked to see even a player as consistently productive as Crosby go through a dry spell, neither was he surprised that Crosby appears to have regained his scoring touch.
“It happens,” Staal said. “It touches everyone. It’s a tough game, and it seems to be getting tighter and tighter every season.
“It’s hard to get points. Obviously, he’s bounced back like everyone thought he would.”
Despite being shut out in the previous two games, Crosby had six goals and six assists in the 10 he played before facing the Hurricanes.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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