The start of the Penguins’ season is less than two weeks away. Line combinations are forming.
When the Penguins got Erik Karlsson, it meant that each of their star centers would have a star defenseman skating behind him. A skilled, fast, puck-mover capable of effectively jumping into the play.
Karlsson and Kris Letang are the defensemen. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the centers.
Who plays behind who?
Crosby, a creature of habit, would likely be more comfortable with Letang.
But Crosby is more defensively responsible than Malkin. Letang is more defensively responsible than Karlsson.
Playing Karlsson behind Malkin would, some nights, be the equivalent of stuffing a hand grenade into the goaltender’s hockey pants. Much would be demanded defensively of the other three skaters.
Crosby is more explosive than Malkin at this stage of their careers. Karlsson is more of a threat than Letang. Perhaps Crosby skating with Karlsson would maximize offensive punch for both while still maintaining defensive accountability.
Obviously, each of the defensemen will see shifts behind each of the centers. Hockey is a fluid game. All four will team up on the power play. (To read more about that, click HERE.)
But the Penguins are a team walking a tightrope just to make the playoffs. Every decision counts.