Penguins Notebook: Cooke, Staal, Kennedy together again
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It was, coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged, mostly a marriage of convenience.
This time, anyway.
But having reunited the line of Matt Cooke, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy for the first time this season at the Penguins' practice Sunday at Consol Energy Center -- a move rooted in forwards Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy, as well as defenseman Brooks Orpik, missing the workout because of illness -- Bylsma did not rule out using them together in a game.
"That may have been the one line we're possibly going to see again," he said.
Bylsma's first chance to deploy them as a unit in 2010-11 comes at 7:38 p.m. today when Boston visits Consol Energy Center.
The chances of that happening against the Bruins figure to rise considerably if Malkin doesn't feel well enough to play, because he and Staal have played together the past four games, and apparently will continue to do so.
"We have kept Jordan with [Malkin] to this point, anticipating that being the case when [Sidney Crosby] returns," Bylsma said.
Nonetheless, Staal, Cooke and Kennedy formed one of the best third lines in the NHL last season, and seem to enjoy a synergy of sorts.
"We've played well together," Kennedy said. "It's always nice to be with those two."
Even though it has been two months, most of the Penguins seem to have vivid memories of their previous game against Boston.
Which they should.
After all, it can't be easy to forget giving up five goals in a period, as the Penguins did in allowing a 4-2 lead to mutate into a 7-4 loss to the Bruins Nov. 10 at Consol Energy Center.
"I think that's fresh in our mind, and [Saturday night's 4-0 loss to Minnesota] is fresh, too," center Mark Letestu said. "I expect a pretty motivated bunch in here. I think we're going to have a pretty good game."
The Bruins, it should be noted, should have no lack of incentive themselves.
They squandered a two-goal lead in the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation en route to a 3-2 overtime loss Saturday night in Montreal.
Staal, who has been playing with a cast on his right hand since returning to the lineup four games ago, switched to a smaller one Sunday in practice, and might begin using it on a full-time basis tonight.
"It's definitely a lot harder to stickhandle with the [original] cast," Staal said. "But the doc let me try it without it, and it felt pretty good."
Probably the only thing the Penguins like about their loss to Minnesota Saturday is that it's over.
OK, the penalty-killers had another flawless performance, snuffing all five Wild power plays, but in general, the Penguins' showing ran the gamut from sluggish to uninspired, with an occasional whiff of lackluster.
Bylsma, though, said Sunday that he won't write it off as just one of those forgettable efforts teams produce occasionally in the course of an 82-game season.
"Coaches never wash their hands of a game," he said. "At least, this coach doesn't wash his hands of a game and say, 'Oh, that was not us, or a figment of our imagination.' We addressed it. That wasn't good. It wasn't good for a number of reasons.
"I'd like to say at the end of 82 that, 'Oh, that was one of those games that happens,' but we have to bring a little different mentality, execution level and focus to our game, starting with Boston."
You would think Mark Recchi is old enough to know better.
Heck, you might think that Recchi is old enough to know almost everything.
But it apparently has not registered with him that a guy who was far from a lock to ever play in the NHL should not still be around 1,611 games later, with his 43rd birthday just 23 days away.
Recchi, who broke into the NHL here and whose career has included three stints with the Penguins, has appeared in all 40 of Boston's games this season, averaging nearly 16 minutes of ice time and putting up seven goals and 17 assists to rank fifth on the team in scoring.