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Sports

May 28, 2013

Deep Penguins finding success with role players

PITTSBURGH — Tanner Glass started every game for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season, his grit providing the fourth line with a rugged presence to take some of the heat off superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Playing time has proven more difficult in the postseason. Glass has watched six of Pittsburgh’s last seven games from the press box. It’s an ego-testing vantage point for a player who helped the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final two years ago.

Glass is healthy. He’s just not a part of coach Dan Bylsma’s plan at the moment.

Such is both the blessing and the curse of playing for the league’s most talent-laden roster.

“You look at the lineup, you can’t say, ‘I should be in ahead of this guy or that guy,’” Glass said. “On this team, we’ve got such a deep team and such a great group of players, you’ve just got to stay ready.”

Hardly an issue these days for the Penguins, who have roared into the Eastern Conference finals against Boston on the strength of their stars and a supporting cast that is showing Pittsburgh is hardly just “The Crosby Show.”

The Penguins currently have eight players in the top 20 in postseason scoring through the first two rounds. Sure, Malkin and Crosby are doing their thing — combining for 31 points through 11 games — but Pittsburgh is also receiving instant offense from the plug-and-play guys toward the bottom of the depth chart.

Forwards Tyler Kennedy, Joe Vitale, Beau Bennett, Jussi Jokinen and Brenden Morrow have joined Glass as healthy scratches. All five have found ways to respond when they see their number written on the dry erase board following a game-day skate.

Kennedy came off the bench to spark a win in Game 5 of the first-round series with the New York Islanders and hasn’t missed a game since. Vitale missed the first four games of the New York series but produced an assist for his first NHL playoff point in Game 5. Morrow didn’t dress for a playoff game for the first time in his 13-year career in Game 4 against Ottawa, then responded with the opening goal in the series clincher two nights later.

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