Penguins notebook: Derick Brassard-Phil Kessel combo connects
When the Penguins picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators before the NHL trade deadline, their idea was that he would jell with right wing Phil Kessel to give the team dangerous scoring depth.
That’s exactly what happened Saturday night.
Brassard’s first goal in a Penguins uniform, assisted by Kessel, came in his third game with the team. It was a clutch, tying effort in the third period, leading the Penguins to a 3-2 overtime win over the New York Islanders.
On the play, Brassard flashed to the net while Kessel threw the puck toward the crease from the right wing. Brassard fished the puck out of goalie Christopher Gibson’s pads and steered it across the goal line.
“I know Phil is a really good shooter, but at the same time, he has really good vision,” Brassard said. “I tried to stay open at one point, and I kind of made my way to the front of the net. He made a really good play there.”
Brassard said he’s still trying to develop chemistry with Kessel.
“We’re not there yet, but I think every game is better,” Brassard said. “Tonight was maybe another really good step in the right direction.”
He said he also is still getting used to the Penguins’ up-tempo style after spending most of the last two seasons with the neutral zone-clogging Senators.
“I think I have to think more offense and still play on the right side of the puck,” Brassard said. “On my previous team, I was playing more on the defensive side all the time.”
Changes on ‘D’
The Penguins made some adjustments to their lineup after an ugly 8-4 loss in Boston two nights before.
Carter Rowney, who was on the ice for five goals against in the Bruins game, and Matt Hunwick, who was on the ice for four, were out, replaced by Dominik Simon and Chad Ruhwedel.
Ruhwedel was a plus-1 in about 14 minutes of ice time in his first game since Dec. 27. He played on the right side of the third defense pair with Olli Maatta. Jamie Oleksiak bumped up to the left side of the second pair with Justin Schultz.
“We just thought we needed to mix up the pairs a little bit,” Sullivan said. “Chad is a guy we know we’re going to need here moving forward. I’ve been concerned for a while that I haven’t got him in any games. I thought it was an opportune time at this point, just based on how our team was playing recently.”
Simon slotted onto the third line with Brassard and Kessel. His assist on Brassard’s goal broke an eight-game scoring drought.
Before the game, Sullivan talked about what Simon will need to do to stick in the lineup.
“Everybody can see his ability to make plays, his offensive instincts, his ability to play in tight space. He’s a really talented, gifted player,” Sullivan said. “It’s more about the little things. It’s about his wall play and his awareness away from the puck and making sure that he’s doing a lot of the little things that make us harder to play against.”
Conor Sheary moved down from the third line to Rowney’s spot at fourth-line right wing.
He received high marks for his play, recording three shots on goal in about eight minutes of ice time.
“We liked the line the way it was tonight,” Sullivan said. “It brings an offensive dimension to it with Conor on it. Riley (Sheahan) and Tommy Kuhnhackl are two pretty responsible two-way players, and we think Riley has the ability to score goals and make plays as well. It’s a pretty good fourth line.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.