Courtesy of Point Park University

What’s my line? Kahun searching for his place


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CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Dominik Kahun entered training camp as the right winger on what should be one of the NHL's most formidable lines in 2019-20.

Two weeks later, he is a place-holder for an injured teammate.

On a different line.

On the left side.

And while being used on both wings is testimony to Kahun's versatility -- especially since he exclusively was a center before breaking into the NHL with the Blackhawks last season -- playing his way off a line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel set the tone for what has been a pretty disappointing camp.

"I've showed (my ability) maybe sometimes, but I think I didn't show it enough," Kahun said Thursday.

The Penguins acquired Kahun from Chicago for defenseman Olli Maatta this summer and, while characterizing him as someone who could move up and down the lineup, seemed to envision him locking up a top-six role.

That has not happened, although Mike Sullivan -- who had more career hat tricks in the NHL (1) than he's had public syllables of criticism for one of his players since be became a coach -- offered a fairly glowing assessment of Kahun's potential and his performance during the past 14 days.

"We've tried to move him around the lineup a little bit," Sullivan said. "He's played with Sid. He's played with (Evgeni Malkin) now. We're exploring where he might best fit with the group. We're doing that with a number of guys.

"We think he's played pretty well to this point. He's everything we thought we were getting when we acquired him. He has good offensive instincts. He's elusive in tight spaces. We're going to continue to work with him in other areas of his game -- his play away from the puck, things of that nature.

"I think he's getting more familiar with how we're trying to play, and that's always an adjustment process for a player. But his camp has been pretty good."

It is telling, though, that Sullivan broke off the experiment with Kahun on the top line after just a few days. Kahun spent Thursday's practice, as well as the Penguins' 4-2 exhibition victory against Detroit Wednesday night, at left wing on a line with Malkin and Bryan Rust.

Alex Galchenyuk has been penciled in for that spot, but sat out the Red Wings game and Thursday's workout because of an unspecified lower-body injury. Sullivan continues to describe him as "day-to-day."

Galchenyuk participated in Wednesday's game-day skate, during which Kahun was one of four forwards working on the fourth line.

Until Galchenyuk returns, the Penguins have just 12 healthy forwards, so Kahun's spot in the lineup is secure. There is, however, no guarantee he will be in uniform when the Sabres visit PPG Paints Arena next Thursday for the regular-season opener.

Kahun is just 24 -- coincidentally enough, that's also his uniform number -- and is coming off a 13-goal, 24-assist season in Chicago, and thrived when teamed with world-class linemates like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

That history, coupled with the challenges any player faces when joining a new team, gives the Penguins reason to believe Kahun can live up to the promise they see in him.

"It's the first time I've had this situation," Kahun said. "I've never been traded before. Everything is new. New people. New city. ... It's been a little mixed up. I've had good times, but I also have to get used to all the new stuff. I've given it my best, but obviously, it takes a little bit of time. I just try to work hard and get into it."

And despite the way he has sputtered through the early weeks of camp, he seems happy to be with the Penguins.

"It's a good spot for me here," Kahun said. "I just have to keep going."

Also at Thursday's practice:

• The personnel groupings during Thursday's workout were the same as those in the Detroit game:

Jake Guentzel--Sidney Crosby--Brandon Tanev
Dominik Kahun--Evgeni Malkin--Bryan Rust
Jared McCann--Nick Bjugstad--Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese--Teddy Blueger--Dominik Simon

Brian Dumoulin--Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson--Justin Schultz
Juuso Riikola--Erik Gudbranson
Jack Johnson--Chad Ruhwedel/John Marino

Matt Murray--Casey DeSmith--Tristan Jarry

• Crosby is scheduled to participate in Friday's practice, then fly to Rimouski, Quebec, where his number will be retired by his junior team in a ceremony that evening. He plans to fly back to Pittsburgh Saturday morning, well before their preseason finale against Buffalo at 4:08 p.m.

• Riikola is having a strong camp for the second year in a row, and might have nudged Johnson out of his place opposite Gudbranson on the third defense pairing. "He's much more familiar with his surroundings," Sullivan said. "He's come back in great shape. I think he's gotten better with each game that he's played. Juuso is a good player. We felt that way last year."

Mike Lange, the Penguins' Hall of Fame broadcaster, is expected to handle play-by-play duties Saturday for the first time this season.

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