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Lineup Adjustments Pose Questions for Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins switched up their lines on Tuesday night, but was it overkill?

Alberta has served as a house of horrors for the Pittsburgh Penguins these past few seasons. They were defeated in both games in the province for the second straight season this week, falling to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames by a combined score of 10-4. 

After losing Jason Zucker to an undisclosed injury against the Oilers, the Penguins shifted around their lineup ahead of their matchup against the Flames. Sam Poulin was inserted into the third-line center position, a well-deserved nod to the work he had put in over the summer and throughout training camp.

Because of that decision, Jeff Carter was moved to the right wing on the Penguin's second line with Evgeni Malkin. It's curious that Carter, who has struggled to start the season, was bumped up in the lineup in favor of Kasper Kapanen. 

Kapanen has bounced back well early this season after a down year in 2021-22. He has shown improvement on both ends of the ice, scoring five points on the season (1G - 4A), and has shown chemistry with Malkin in the past. This makes the decision to keep the former in the bottom six an interesting one. 

Bryan Rust was also promoted in the lineup and started alongside Sidney Crosby for the first time this season. Rickard Rakell moved to the left side, and Danton Heinen bumped to the second line. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has always deployed his lineup in pairs, one of which being Malkin and Rust this season. 

Breaking up that duo says more about where the coaching staff is with Heinen, than where they are with the Rust and Malkin duo. Heinen struggled against the Oilers on Monday, but the decision to demote him seemed quick and harsh.

A similar thing happened with Heinen last season when he was dropped from the Penguin's second line to the fourth line following a rough defensive performance against the New York Rangers. 

Injuries can leave a team scrambling for lineup answers. In the case of the Penguins on Tuesday, their moves seemed more like an overreaction than anything, and it makes you wonder where they are at when evaluating this team.

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