By Rob Rossi
Of everything that seemingly needs fixed regarding the Penguins in the two weeks between now and the Stanley Cup playoffs, no issue looms larger than figuring out how to get center Brandon Sutter going.
Sutter was the key cog in the Jordan Staal trade two years ago. Now, when healthy, he appears to be no better than a fourth-line center for the Penguins.
Strong defensively, his offensive game has not developed – and though he is well liked, he is not a playmaker to work with a shooter or a shooter to work with a playmaker.
Essentially, he doesn’t really fit offensively on the top three lines. This is also because he is not physical and often goes unnoticed against bigger teams.
Marcel Goc probably will not play in Round 1 because of his ankle injury. Evgeni Malkin is expected to return by the first round.
Sutter will slot into the third-line center role, but the Penguins now have to contemplate breaking up the second line and pairing Jussi Jokinen on the wing with Sutter. Otherwise, the offense will be too easy to defense.
Sutter probably isn’t the X-factor for these Penguins, but that is only because he hasn’t earned that distinction.
Rob Rossi, ClearChannel’s Penguins Insider, cover the NHL for Trib Total Media. In addition to this blog, his articles can be found here: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/