Courtesy of Point Park University

Sullivan has early line on forward combos


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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Mike Sullivan doesn't know exactly what his forward combinations are going to look like when the Penguins open the regular season against Buffalo Oct. 3. He probably doesn't even realize exactly how many possibilities there are, considering the number of guys on his roster who can play more than one position and move up and down the lineup.

But there is at least one thing of which Sullivan is certain: Having the ability to configure his lines so many ways can only be a good thing.

"I don't know if you can ever have too many options," he told Friday at the Prospects Challenge tournament here at HarborCenter.

Sullivan and his staff have considered quite a few of those, and seem to have some tentative ideas on what units he might deploy when training camp opens next Friday.

"We've discussed the multiple options we have at our disposal, based on the personnel we have at this point," Sullivan said. "We're excited about the group. We think we have a lot of options. We have some ideas in mind for how we want to utilize people. We'll use training camp as a means to try to explore some of those options."

That includes identifying the best fit for right wing on the No. 1 line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, a niche for which there is no shortage of candidates.

"Sid and Jake are so versatile," he said. "They have the ability to play with different types. I've always been in favor of putting speed with those guys, so there's someone who's going to give them an opportunity to get pucks back and force turnovers and chase defensemen down and put our opponents under pressure. When that happens, usually turnovers are the result and opportunity presents itself and those guys are talented enough to do what they do best.

"Speed is something that excites me when we're looking at some of the guys we have and what the options are to play with Sid and Jake. But that's not always the case. Sometimes, we think that if we need a 'heavier' guy to play with those guys, then maybe it's someone who's going to help them down low, who's going to go to the net for them and be good at the net-front. You just look at the past and see how we've utilized different players.

"When we feel, for example, that they need speed, you see a guy like (Bryan Rust) up there, or a Jared McCann, maybe, or someone of that sort. Dominik Kahun is a guy who brings some speed and some skill. That could be another option. If we're looking for someone who's going to provide some grit and bring a heavier guy to that line, that's when you're going to see a guy like Patric Hornqvist who can go there. I don't know that that's ever etched in stone."

Oh, and there is at least one other contender. A young man who has some experience in that very role.

"Dominik (Simon) is a really talented player," Sullivan said. "He's got great offensive instincts. He's good on the forecheck. When we look at our personnel group, Dominik might be one of the stiffer players on the puck in the battle areas that we have, even though he's not overly big.

"He's a good playmaker, he sees the ice well, he's a guy who plays on both sides of the puck. He's definitely a guy who could potentially play there. I think Dominik has shown an ability to score goals at other levels. If he can find his scoring touch at the NHL level, I think Dominik could be a really dangerous player."

Sullivan didn't rule out the possibility of Alex Galchenyuk, acquired from Arizona in the Phil Kessel trade, auditioning for the spot alongside Crosby and Guentzel, but seems to be inclined to use him with another center with world-class credentials.

"We've talked about utilizing a guy like Alex Galchenyuk with (Evgeni Malkin) to see if there's chemistry there," he said. "He's a guy who, potentially, could play with (Malkin), but he's also a guy who could play with Crosby, depending on how the lines evolve and who plays well."

Which, of course, is what will determine what every forward unit looks like a month from now.

"Training camp is going to be a great opportunity for us to explore some of the things we've been thinking about as a coaching staff," Sullivan said. "It will also be a great opportunity for the players. Hopefully, we'll have a competitive camp. I think we will. We've got an exciting group that's ready to come back and play. We're looking forward to seeing what we have."

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