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Penguins’ Derick Brassard starting to thrive with new linemates | TribLIVE.com
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Penguins’ Derick Brassard starting to thrive with new linemates

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, September 27, 2018 5:33 a.m.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Derick Brassard defends on the Sabres’ Casey Mittelstadt in the first period Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Derick Brassard celebrates his goal against the Sabres in the second period Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

For a player entering his 12th pro season, Derick Brassard actually had a fairly lengthy to-do this this preseason.

He had to make sure he was in tip-top shape after a lower-body injury hampered his efforts late in the regular season and into the playoffs last year. He had to shake off a lung infection that sidelined him for the first five days of practice.

Perhaps most importantly, he had to develop chemistry and a sense of familiarity with his linemates. Between joining the Penguins at the trade deadline and dealing with his injury, that’s not something he was able to do all that effectively last season.

With a week to go before the season opener, it looks like Brassard has crossed all those items off his list.

Brassard scored a power-play goal as the Penguins ended the home portion of their preseason schedule with a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night, but that probably wasn’t the most important development of the game.

More importantly, he looked dynamite with his new linemates, Dominik Simon on the left wing and Bryan Rust on the right.

When they were on the ice together at even strength, the Penguins outshot the Sabres, 11-0.

“We had some really good looks,” Brassard said. “We try to be on the puck as much as we can and create some turnovers. I think we’re skating, and I think if we do that, we’re going to have a better chance to create some offense. It’s preseason, but at least we feel good out there.”

Coming into camp, there were only a couple of questions surrounding the makeup of the top two lines. Who would play on the right wing with Sidney Crosby and who would play on the left wing with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel?

Those questions were answered in fairly short order, with Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin filling the spots.

The third-line picture wasn’t as clear. There was talk of experimenting with Brassard on the wing. If he stayed at center, there was a cornucopia of wingers who could conceivably flank him.

Before last Sunday’s 7-3 exhibition win over Columbus, coach Mike Sullivan settled on the Simon-Brassard-Rust combo.

Rust is a north-south player with speed, and his game complements Brassard’s playmaking ability, the coach figured. Simon plays well in high-traffic areas and has good hands.

They haven’t looked back.

“They all have pretty decent offensive instincts, so I think there’s a little bit of everything on that line,” Sullivan said. “Both Brass and Rusty are really solid two-way players. I think Dom Simon has come a long way with his play away from the puck. When you look at each respective skill set, you can see why that line potentially could be an effective line for us. That’s a line that can score goals with their offensive instructs, with their ability to make plays, and they’re also a line that can play a 200-foot game.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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