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Jake Guentzel moves to center; is change long-term for Penguins?

January 5, 2018 GMT

The Penguins have long been aware of Jake Guentzel’s ability to play center, and coach Mike Sullivan has repeatedly answered questions about whether the 23-year-old might be moved there for a more longer-term basis.

His hand forced by an injury to third-line center Carter Rowney, Sullivan finally appears to be giving Guentzel that shot in the middle.

Guentzel centered Carl Hagelin and Daniel Sprong in line rushes during the morning skate in advance of Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“We have chosen not to to this point because we felt as though he has been better served playing one the wing, but we know (Guentzel) is capable of playing center,” Sullivan said. “He’s played center in the past, he’s comfortable playing center. That’s always an option for us. We’ve never taken it off the table.”

Guentzel had a one-game trial at center earlier this season, but for the most part, Sullivan has kept him on Sidney Crosby’s wing.

Rowney is out at least four weeks, meaning this could be a monthlong experiment. It could help jump-start a struggling Penguins offense by using a third line with two such scorers as Guentzel (42 goals in 106 NHL games, counting the playoffs) and Sprong (141 goals in 237 games in juniors; 23 goals in 39 AHL games).

The two played on a line together during the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs.

“Just by watching him here, he’s been really good, so I am excited to play with him,” Sprong said.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.