New-look Penguins ready for chemistry experiment

Dan Bylsma’s trendy eyeglasses and perfectly tailored suits are

part of his understated professional look.

Over the next month, the Pittsburgh Penguins coach might want to

consider trading them in for a pair of scientist goggles and a

white lab coat as he tries to figure out how to mix together the

right elements to lead the franchise to its fourth Stanley Cup.

And make no mistake, anything short of a parade in late June

through the ”City of Champions” will be considered a

disappointment after general manager Ray Shero pulled off his own

personal hat trick earlier this week.

Over the span of four days, the Penguins acquired forwards

Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow along with defenseman Doug Murray

without touching the roster that has now ripped off 14 straight


Now Bylsma has to find a way to upgrade a team that hardly looks

as if it needs one.

During a news conference hours after landing Iginla, a six-time

All-Star, Bylsma used the word ”chemistry” more than 10 times

while trying to describe ways to create the elusive ingredient

required to make a deep playoff run.

”There’s a clear message, a clear focus of bringing that (team)

together,” Bylsma said.

Pittsburgh is hardly the first team to make major roster changes

before the trade deadline. Hockey history is littered with

franchises that went ”all in” to capture a title.

The 1994 New York Rangers brought in Cup-savvy veterans Stephane

Matteau, Glenn Anderson, Brian Noonan and Craig MacTavish late in

the season, one that ended with the Rangers winning it all for the

first time in 54 years.

It helped that the hierarchy in the dressing room was already

well established. Captain Mark Messier ran the show and everyone

else fell in line.

Though Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby and reigning MVP

Evgeni Malkin go about their business for the Penguins a little

differently than the outspoken Messier, that doesn’t mean there’s

any question about whom the team turns to when it’s needed.

Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel got an up-close look during

Pittsburgh’s 4-0 romp on Thursday night, a victory that pulled the

Penguins within three games of the NHL record for consecutive


Crosby had two assists – including a ridiculous no-look backhand

pass to Chris Kuntiz for the game’s first goal – and Malkin scored

in his return after missing nine games with an upper-body


”They’re playing with a lot of will and you can see who drives

that team,” Noel said. ”When that happens you watch that team


Noel, however, was quick to add the Penguins ”can be beaten”

even though it’s been more than a month since anyone has been able

to do it for a full three periods.

Pittsburgh’s biggest enemy – other than the pressure that comes

with being anointed the Stanley Cup favorite – may be itself.

Crosby knows for every 1994 New York Rangers there’s a team that

loaded up and nothing happened.

The Washington Capitals were sailing to the Presidents’ Trophy

three years ago when they added four players – including defensemen

Joe Corvo and Milan Jurcina – and were bounced in the first round

by Montreal.

The St. Louis Blues sent three players and two draft picks to

the Los Angeles Kings in 1996 for Wayne Gretzky.

The Great One helped the Blues to the playoffs, but they lost to

Detroit in the Western Conference semifinals and Gretzky was out

the door for New York less than two months later.

Crosby, who considers himself a bit of a hockey historian, is

well aware of the pitfalls that lay ahead.

”I think everyone knows there are a ton of teams that have been

(considered the favorite) that haven’t panned out,” Crosby said.

”That’s not a team that we want to be.”

In a way, spending most of the final month of the season on the

road will help. Leaving Pittsburgh will allow the newcomers to

spend extended periods of time off the ice with their more

established teammates, hopefully creating the kind of positive

energy that can help overcome bumps in the road.

And it’s not as if the new guys are anonymous. Iginla and Morrow

played with Crosby and Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on

Team Canada’s gold medal-winning team in the 2010 Vancouver

Olympics. In Vancouver, the quartet helped carry a nation.

Surely a city can’t be that difficult, right?

”Those guys have been around a long time and know what it

takes,” Crosby said.

Shero will let Bylsma do the tinkering, but isn’t concerned

about any bruised egos along the way.

”It doesn’t matter who you play with (or) how you play,” Shero

said. ”Every player that’s here is here for a reason, that’s to

try and help us win.”

Bylsma indicated he’ll keep the trio of Crosby, Kunitz and

Pascal Dupuis – the highest-scoring line in the league –


It’s likely Iginla will play on the second line with Malkin and

James Neal while Morrow will be teamed with Brandon Sutter and Matt


At least, that’s the plan. Bylsma said there will be times

depending on the situation Pittsburgh could have Crosby and Iginla

play together and that a variety of combinations will pop up.

Regardless of who is on the ice together, the Penguins now have

perhaps the most talented roster in the league. It makes them the

team to beat, one with a pretty big target on its back.

Pittsburgh has won 11 straight at home heading into Saturday’s

game against the New York Islanders, and New York forward John

Tavares sounds as if he’s speaking for the entire league when asked

for his take on the new-look Penguins.

”Obviously, they’re making headlines and they’re really going

for it,” Tavares said. ”That’s what some teams do this time of

year, so we’ll be ready for it.”

NOTES: Iginla is expected to arrive in Pittsburgh on Saturday,

but is not expected to be in the lineup. He could make his Penguins

debut on Tuesday against Buffalo … Fleury practiced on Friday,

but Bylsma wouldn’t elaborate on his availability. Fleury suffered

a minor upper body injury in a win over Montreal on Tuesday and was

scratched for Thursday’s game against the Jets … Defenseman Paul

Martin did not practice Friday due to an upper-body injury.

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