These are the people who could shape penguin season

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a pretty good idea of ​​what they can expect from some of their players during the coming season.

Sidney Crosby Again must be one of the finest 200-foot performers in the game, averaging better than one point per game and setting an example for his teammates across the snow with his commitment and attention to detail.

Chris Letang, occasional misses aside, would remain the anchor of the Defense Corps, blending offensive goodies, low physicality and exceptional conditioning.

Jake Guenzel will again be as fearless as he is skilled in the offensive, Chad Ruhwedel will be quietly effective in whatever duty is given and Mark Friedman Will annoy opponents more than a sharp pebble in their skate.

But even if players whose contributions are predictable perform as expected, there are some who are wild cards, capable of producing above or below expectation. (The 2011-22 play by Ivan Rodrigues and Kaspari Kapanan, respectively, is an example.)

Which teams are able to get the best out of those players can take a long time to determine how successful (or disappointing) their season is and the Penguins, like most clubs, are on the front and defending something in every situation. (If the Pittsburgh Penguins don’t get a consistently strong game from No. 1 goalkeeper Tristan ZariThe rest of the roaster chips probably won’t matter much.)

Here’s a look at those, as the roster currently produced, shapes up as the Penguin’s biggest personnel variable in 2022-23.

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Jeff Carter – He looked restless during the early months of last season, scoring 11 goals and nine assists in his first 29 appearances and filling to great potential at the No. Evgeny Malkin Was recovering from knee surgery off-season.

But Carter’s effectiveness declined as the season progressed, scoring eight goals and 17 assists in his final 45 games. (And while plus-minus is clearly a flawed, limited statistic, it’s hard to ignore that he was minus-1 in those first 29 games, minus-7 in the last 45.)

With the return of Sidney Crosby and Malkin, Carter resumed his role as a third-row center, receiving work on the penalty-killing unit and the No. He will turn 38 on January 1, and whether he acts like he has a wealth of experience — or is just getting old — will determine how stable the penguins are in the middle.

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Jason Zucker Zucker has not been the Pittsburgh Penguins’ offensive force when they acquired him from Minnesota in 2020, registering just 23 goals and 24 assists in 94 games.

Part of the problem has been a series of injuries, including those requiring core-muscle surgery. Effort is certainly not a problem, as Zucker has been a vigorous and effective forechecker when he is in the lineup.

It may not be realistic to pencil him in to equal the 33 goals he scored for Wilde in 2017-18, but if Zucker can get to 20-plus, it will add a dimension to the No. 2 line in which to stop. Has the ability to keep opponents from focusing their defensive efforts on Crosby’s unit.

right wing

caspari kapanen – He’s not exactly a polarizing person, as Kapan’s skeptics far outnumber Kapanen’s supporters. And it’s not hard to see why.

The only thing that is universally agreed upon is that 2021-22 was a very bad season for him, as he had far more puzzling decisions – such as taking the puck after going to the net rather than the boards. tendency towards curling. Blue line – from points.

Still, management has so much confidence in him that they’ve re-signed Kapanen for two years, and if he can exceed his pace and score goals and assists, it will be Mike Sullivan three lines up. may compound the crime by allowing it to be deployed. Legitimate threat to score.

left defense

Brian Dumoulin – Almost all Penguins’ left-handed defensemen come with a few questions, but the most important one is whether Brian Dumoulin will be able to bounce back from a subpar performance last season.

If he does, Dumoulin and Letang will be a quality No. 1 pair, as they have been together for most of their time. However, if the Dumoulin stumbles, the tremors will spread to the entire unit, which, at least for now, does not qualify to move with the Letang.

Dumoulin is entering the final season of a contract with a salary-cap hit of $4.1 million, and while he doesn’t seem like a guy who needs extra motivation, playing for his next deal — and Possibly his future with Penguin – couldn’t hurt.

perfect defense

mass rota — The right side of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ defense, headlined by Letang and Jeff Petrie, may be the strongest part of their depth chart (not that a pair of future Hall of Famers in the center should be reduced), so Ruta Don’t have to fill a high-profile, big-minute niche.

Assuming that Sullivan doesn’t move him to the left – Rutta has played both – he could prove to be a good partner on the third pair for a lefty with offensive skills like Ty Smith or P.O. Joseph.

A few weeks ago the Penguins justified Rutta’s three-year contract as having enough of a responsible defensive presence to allow a young player to develop his offensive game at this level.

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