Crosby, Guentzel could have Kapanen as linemate with Penguins this season


Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel could be joined on their line by right wing Kasperi Kapanen this season, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Saturday.

“We really hope that we’ve got the right chemistry for a line for Sid,” Rutherford told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio. “He has had really good chemistry with Guentzel here for a while, which will continue, but getting that right winger that works, and we’re hoping that Kapanen is the guy that can do that.

“I think with Kapanen’s speed and the fact he can track down pucks and Sid can find him in the open [ice], it should be a good fit, but we’ll see.”

Kapanen was acquired by Pittsburgh on Aug. 25 as part of a six-player trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 24-year-old forward scored 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 69 games last season.

“Even the fact that they think I can be in one of those two spots is a huge honor for me, obviously playing with one of the two better hockey players in the world,” Kapanen said then of possibly playing on a line with Crosby or center Evgeni Malkin. “… I want to be great. I want to come into camp ready to go, show everyone I’m not messing around.”

Video: The Pittsburgh Penguins acquire Kasperi Kapanen

Crosby scored 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 41 games last season. He missed 28 games recovering from core-muscle surgery he had Nov. 14. Guentzel scored 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 39 games. He had shoulder surgery Dec. 31 which ended his regular season.

When together, Crosby and Guentzel played most with forward Dominik Simon at even strength last season. The season prior, when Guentzel scored 40 goals and Crosby scored 100 points, forward Bryan Rust was their most common linemate among several.

Crosby had arthroscopic surgery on his wrist Aug. 31 and the Penguins captain was expected to recover in 3-4 weeks. He scored three points (two goals, one assist) in Pittsburgh’s four-game loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

The 2020-21 NHL season is targeted to begin Jan. 1, 2021.

“Yeah, he feels good,” Rutherford said of the 33-year-old. “You know, he had a little procedure done there after the playoffs and took care of something that had been bothering him actually for a while, and he feels good. He’s excited. He just wants to get his skates on every day and get playing.”

In the trade for Kapanen, Pittsburgh also received forward Pontus Aberg and defenseman Jesper Lindgren. Toronto received forwards Evan Rodrigues and Filip Hallander, defenseman David Warsofsky, and the No. 15 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft (forward Rodion Amirov).

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