Penguins Notebook: Therrien reconfigures all 4 lines
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Penguins coach Michel Therrien has stuck with relatively stable line combinations for several weeks, although he sometimes has bumped Evgeni Malkin to the top line on a short-term basis to try to spark some offense.
Yesterday, Therrien took a different approach when he scrambled the lines significantly for practice at Southpointe.
Joining center Sidney Crosby on the top line were Erik Christensen and Colby Armstrong. The second line had rookie Jordan Staal centering Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi -- the wingers who had been playing with Crosby.
Malkin skated between Gary Roberts and Michel Ouellet. The fourth line had wingers Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque with Maxime Talbot.
"We'll try different combinations," Therrien said. "That's part of the responsibility of trying to get a little lift for our offense."
The new combinations could last five shifts into the game today against Atlanta, the rest of the season or anywhere between.
"We just need to get more offense," said Crosby, who leads the NHL with 108 points. "We haven't scored too many goals lately. So we're trying to shake things up and find ways to score goals."
The Penguins have scored one goal in each of their past two games, both losses, after averaging 3.9 goals per game through the first 10 games in March.
For Armstrong, the move puts him back on the top line, where he spent much of the late part of last season. Armstrong has one goal, two assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-2 in the past four games.
"I think Colby's playing really well, playing hard," Therrien said. "We hope that combination will bring some offense."
Christensen has gone a long way toward establishing himself in the NHL this season with 16 goals, 27 points in 53 games and a knack for scoring in shootouts. Playing with the creative Crosby will be his next challenge.
"Move your feet. Move all the time," Christensen said of his plan. "Always think ahead because Sid's always doing that. He's thinking three, four plays ahead of time, and not many guys do that or have the ability to do that.
"I'm going to need some luck. I've got to put my stick on the ice and be ready for those behind-the-back passes, unexpected passes, be ready for everything."
Eaton ready to return
Therrien expects defenseman Mark Eaton to play tomorrow against Boston, and there's an outside chance he could return today.
"We're going to try to put him back in this weekend, probably not [today]," Therrien said. "We have to see how he feels, but our plan is to see that he's going to play this weekend."
Eaton, considered the Penguins' top defensive defenseman, has missed the past 11 games because of a sprained right knee. Earlier this season, he missed 21/2 months because of a wrist injury.
College free agent signs
The Penguins signed college free-agent center Mark Letestu to a two-year, entry-level contract and assigned him to their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton minor-league club.
Letestu, 22, led all NCAA freshmen with 46 points this season with Western Michigan. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound native of Elk Point, Alberta, was tied for sixth among all NCAA skaters with 24 goals, five of which were shorthanded.
He was named the Central Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the year.
Before college, Letestu played four seasons of junior hockey with the Bonnyville Pontiacs, leading the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 105 points in 2005-06.
Therrien declined to say which goaltender would start today, but indicated that Marc-Andre Fleury and Jocelyn Thibault likely will get one start apiece with afternoon home games today and tomorrow. ... Crosby, at 22.3 percent, is one of four players who have accounted for more than 20 percent of their team's power-play points. The others are Boston's Marc Savard (25.1 percent), Atlanta's Marian Hossa (22.2 percent) and San Jose's Joe Thornton (20.2 percent). ... The Penguins cleared out a large space at Southpointe and set up sticks, jerseys, pucks and other items for all the players to sign. It is a twice-a-year event to stockpile autographed items that will be donated to charity events.
First Published March 24, 2007 12:00 am