A few days after he was acquired by the Penguins in a blockbuster trade which sent Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes, center Brandon Sutter expressed optimism over the prospect of taking on a larger offensive role, particularly on the power play, than he had been afforded in his four seasons in Carolina.
All of 13 games into his Penguins career, Sutter's hopes have been realized as he has earned a role as a net-front presence with the team's second power-play unit.
Averaging 1:35 of power-play time per game this season, Sutter has already logged a total of 20:47 of ice time with the man advantage this campaign, In contrast, he had all of 36:41 in 82 games with the Hurricanes last season. That equated to an average of a mere 26 seconds per game.
With six points including a goal on the power play, Sutter has taken advantage of the offensive opprotunities he desired.
Prior to last night's 3-1 loss to the Devils (Sutter was held off the scoreboard), the new Penguins center talked about his offense, his linemates and his role on the power play.
When you joined the Penguins, you expressed a desire to take on a larger role offesively. Is this what you hoped for?
"I think it’s not necessarily always just production. As long as you’re creating chances on the ice and your line is doing stuff. I think we’ve been better the last few games at creating offense. Then the power play. Obviously it’s nice to get on the power play. That opens up some offensive opportunity too. So far it’s been good I think most importantly, our defensive zone has been getting better."
You have primarily have played with Matt Cooke (right) and Tyler Kennedy on your wings in five-on-five play. How has the process of getting acclimated to their games progressed?
"It’s taken some time but I think we’re getting more comfortable every game. I think over the last week or 10 days here, we’ve felt we’ve played really well and we want to keep doing that. We’re a line that can contribute a couple different ways. I think we’re still trying to figure out a few little things. I know personally have an idea of how they like to play and what they like to do on the ice. Starting to get more comfortable."
What does Cooke offer as a linemate?
"You get pucks in behind their defensemen and you let him go in there and kind of bang around and turn pucks over. I think with him and ‘TK,’ they’re both fast guys that can forecheck. When they can get in there and forecheck, that seems like when we get our chances. I think when we’re doing that we can spend a lot of time in (the offensive) zone."
Have you ever played with a winger who is willing to shoot as much as Kennedy?
"Not really. I never played with a guy with a shot like he has. He wants to shoot but he has a good shot. You’ve got to try and get him the puck. Hopefully, we can start finding ways to find him a little bit more, especially when he’s in the slot or the soft areas. He can really rip it so we have to try and find him."
In a 5-2 win against the Capitals Thursday, you and Cooke connected for a goal off a faceoff play Evgeni Malkin and James Neal have famously employed. What prompted you two to attempt it?
"I think it’s just something we wanted to try. It doesn’t work all the time but when it does, it sure feels good. He said he wanted to try it and it worked out. We’ll try it again."
You attempted that play earlier in the week during the third period of Tuesday's 4-2 win against the Islanders. Is there a risk in overusing a play like that and giving opponents something to look out for?
"It’s kind of tough. You have to be set and the other team has to adjust it. But it’s all about winning the faceoff clean. If you pick it clean, then you got a chance. If it bounces around for half a second, the play is probably dead. It’s all about the faceoff."
You're centering the team's second power-play unit and providing a net-front presence. Did you ever get any chances like that on the Hurricane's power plays?
"No. Actually nothing. I never had any the last couple of years so it’s nice to get a chance to go on the offense a little bit. The last week or 10 days we haven’t had a ton of chances because the first unit has been scoring every time but that’s fine with us …"
(Note: While taping his stick, captain Sidney Crosby was privy to the interview and wryly chirped, “There’s nothing wrong with that.”)
When you take on the net-front presence on a power play, is it just a matter of being in front of the crease or are there other nuances to the role?
“I think you just want to create a little traffic for the goalie and be the guy to jump on pucks in the corners. When there’s a bubble puck or something, you’ve got to be there to be an option or be an outlet. It’s nice to be around the net. When the puck’s coming, you got a chance to make a play on it.”
(Photo: Sutter-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Cooke-Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)