With Evgeni Malkin returning from a one-game suspension and Zach Aston-Reese back from a hand injury, the Pittsburgh Penguins have as large a crop of available forwards as they’ve had at any point in the season.
That means tough decisions for coach Mike Sullivan when the Penguins host Calgary on Saturday afternoon.
At Friday’s practice in Cranberry, Dominik Simon and Tanner Pearson were on the outside looking in while Teddy Blueger and Garrett Wilson had spots among the team’s top 12 forwards.
That could change by the time the puck drops Saturday afternoon of course, but if it doesn’t, Sullivan is giving two less experienced players a chance to make an impact.
Blueger has played only seven NHL games, scoring in three of them. Wilson has 62 games on his NHL resume.
Pearson is a sixth-year pro with a 24-goal season to his credit. Simon has played 81 games over the past two years.
“(Experience has) never been part of the criteria I’ve ever used,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to put players in the lineup that we think can play well and help us win that bring a certain dimension to the team that helps us win. That’s the dialogue that we have as a coaching staff. That’s how I frame the discussion when we discuss those kind of decisions. That’s quite honestly how we go about our business.”
Simon and Pearson are slumping. Simon has scored once in his last 15 games and was scratched Wednesday against Edmonton. Pearson has one goal in his last 13 games.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.