By Allan Muir
Neither the Pittsburgh Penguins nor the Ottawa Senators were happy with the sputtering offenses that produced just one goal apiece in regulation in Game 3. So it’s no surprise that both Dan Bylsma and Paul MacLean are looking to add a little more punch to their rosters for tonight’s crucial Game 4 at Scotiabank Place.
In for Pittsburgh is Jussi Jokinen. For Ottawa, it’s Mark Stone.
Jokinen will see his first action in the series after sitting out the first three games, likely replacing Tanner Glass. He could skate on the fourth line tonight, with spot duty elsewhere to help out on face-offs, and should see time on Pittsburgh’s second power play unit. Don’t be surprised if he makes a big impact.
“The left face-off dot is something we haven’t been good at in this series,” Bylsma said on Monday. “Jussi has been outstanding on face-offs, especially on the left side. He’s a guy who’s played big games. He’s a skill guy who’s done real good things for us in the games he’s played.”
That skill could jumpstart a power play that failed to click during six chances in Game 3, including a 58-second five-on-three opportunity and a stretch early in overtime. After striking three times in the first two contests, that goose egg with the extra man probably cost the Penguins a chance to take a commanding three-games-to-none lead.
Expect Jokinen to skate on the second unit alongside Pascal Dupuis and Jarome Iginla, who has looked out of place on the first unit while alternating with James Neal. Adding Jokinen to the mix could help both struggling wingers get into a more natural rhythm and make both units more effective.
Ottawa’s Stone is less well established, but he surprised with his sturdy play and instant chemistry with Jason Spezza during last year’s playoffs. Stone went scoreless in four games with the Senators this season, but after tallying 41 goals and 123 points in 2011-12 with the Brandon Wheat Kings, it’s clear that he knows his way to the net. And at 6-2 and 200 pounds, he’ll be tougher to push around when he gets there. He’s more of a playmaker than a pure goal scorer, but he has a quick release and isn’t prone to overpassing, a problem that’s plagued the Sens at times during this series.
Discipline will be a focus for Ottawa in this game, so it doesn’t hurt that Stone knows how to keep his cool. Despite playing a physical game, he never rang up more than 28 penalty minutes in any his four seasons of junior hockey.
Stone will replace Cory Conacher in the lineup. The diminutive winger has struggled in this series, putting up a minus-1 rating in each of the three games and taking four minor penalties while looking a little overwhelmed by his defensive responsibilities.