CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Bryan Rust, the Swiss Army knife on the Penguins' roster, found himself back on the top line Monday morning when the team returned to practice at the Lemieux Sports Complex.
Rust was on the right wing on a line centered by Sidney Crosby with Jake Guentzel on the left side. Rust, who returned last week from a concussion, has 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points in 59 games to rank seventh on the Penguins this season.
"He's got a ton of speed, he plays both ends of the ice really hard," Crosby said of Rust. "He's good in the corner, but he works hard to get back and blocks shots, he helps defensively, too. I think his all-around game is really solid. He can play that way regardless of who he's playing with."
With Rust moving up, Conor Sheary moved down to the third line -- Rust's old spot -- where he was skating with Derick Brassard and Phil Kessel. After a two-goal game at Philadelphia snapped a 15-game goal-less drought, Sheary followed that up by going pointless over the last four games while skating on the top line.
Sullivan said that he liked Sheary's last game in Montreal, adding that the lines used Monday were "not etched in stone."
"We thought he was on the puck, he created a lot of loose pucks for his line," Sullivan said. "We're just trying to find some combinations where we get the balance that we're looking for and so we're tinkering a little bit."
Finding consistent linemates for Crosby this season has proven to be a challenge. But with the playoffs approaching soon, the captain said that he'd like to have some stability.
"I think when playoffs come, you want to find those combinations best you can and usually when you have those combinations everything is going, that's always a good sign," Crosby said. "So I think as we're moving into that time, you want to make sure that you can find that consistency there."
• The lines and pairs went like this:
• Once again Matt Murray was a full participant in practice on Monday. Sullivan won't name his starter until after Tuesday's morning skate in Brooklyn, but he did say that Murray was an option. For what it's worth, Murray did work in the normal starter's net and was the first goalie off the ice, a strong indication that he will start.
• Zach Aston-Reese did not take the ice with his teammates. On Saturday, he wore a non-contact jersey after his teammates came off the ice. This time, he wasn't seen at all. He has been out since Feb. 26 with an upper-body injury. Also not skating Monday were Dominik Simon and Carter Rowney, who are out with injuries. All other non-injured players participated.
"It's important to be playing the right way. I think if that's something that puts us in a position to win the division, then it's important. It's nice to have that but, that being said, I think we just want to make sure we're playing the right way and hope that brings us the first spot." - Crosby, on the importance of winning the Metro even though they've won the past two Cups without it.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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