Carl Hagelin’s return provides potential boost to Penguins offense

May 5, 2018

WASHINGTON — The top-line duo of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel has carried the Penguins through much of the first two rounds of the playoffs.

As the Penguins prepare to face the Washington Capitals in a pivotal Game 5 of the Metropolitan Division finals Saturday night, they’ll look to their most productive personnel grouping of the regular season to provide a boost.

The trio of Carl Hagelin, Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist played together for 296 minutes in the regular season, scoring 18 goals. Both figures were tops on the team.

The line was reunited in a 3-1 Penguins win in Game 4 Thursday night when Hagelin made his return to the lineup after missing three games with a facial injury suffered on a Claude Giroux hit in Game 6 of a first-round series with the Flyers.

“It’s fun to be back,” Hagelin said after morning skate Saturday. “Obviously a very intense series. I think any time you can come back and be part of a win, it helps your confidence.”

The injury forced Hagelin to play with a full face shield. In one sense, that was nothing new for Hagelin, who played with a cage for four years of college hockey at Michigan. In another sense, he finished school seven years ago. An adjustment period was required.

“I think it was good to get one game under my feet with a lot of people coming at you,” Hagelin said. “Skating today, I felt even better.”

Hagelin said he was able to work out while sidelined, so he didn’t feel he’d lost anything in his legs when he made his return.

The Penguins have relied almost exclusively on the Crosby-Guentzel combo for even-strength offense against the Capitals, so a contribution from another line would obviously be a welcome development.”

“In the playoffs, you try to do everything you can to help the team win,” Hagelin said. “Sometimes that’s scoring a goal. Sometimes that’s making a good defensive play. As a team, we have different guys stepping up at different moments. That’s what we’re going to need.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.