Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sheahan Handles Tough Assignment Center Fills in for Malkin on 2nd Line

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sheahan Handles Tough Assignment Center Fills in for Malkin on 2nd Line

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA - "Fill in for Evgeni Malkin" isn't the easiest job description in the world, especially in a pivotal playoff game, on the road, facing an opponent fighting for its postseason life.

But that's what Riley Sheahan was asked to do Sunday in Game 6 for the Penguins. He did so masterfully, providing steady, solid play centering the second line in a 8-5, series-clinching win.

Malkin's lineup spot is probably safe when he returns from injury, but Sheahan's performance Sunday was critical in the victory.

"I thought he was terrific," coach Mike Sullivan said. "Riley's been such a valuable player for our team. We've cast him in so many different roles. He's a talented kid, and he's embraced that challenge of whatever we put in front of him.

"Tonight he jumps into that second-line role, plays with Phil [Kessel]. I thought Phil had a strong game, his line was really good. But I thought Riley was terrific, not just five-on-five, but he was a big part of that four-on-three kill, won a lot of faceoffs for us."

Sheahan led all Penguins forwards in ice time (20:07) and even-strength ice time (16:34). He picked up an assist on Carl Hagelin's go-ahead goal in the first period and had five shot attempts. He also won eight faceoffs, second most on the team behind Sidney Crosby.

Despite his current usual spot at fourth-line center, playing up the lineup with players like Hagelin and Kessel isn't exactly new territory. Kessel was Sheahan's most frequent winger this season, as the two played together on the third line for most of the year.

Sheahan and Kessel also started to develop some chemistry in mid-February, before the acquisition of Derick Brassard bumped Sheahan down to the fourth line.

"I'm familiar with the way [Kessel] plays," Sheahan said. "Nothing really has changed. Just keep the same things in mind, try to get him the puck. He's a weapon when he has the puck, whether he's shooting or making plays. You just try to be big for him, make some space for him and let him do what he does."

And despite the big shoes he had to fill, Sheahan said he didn't try to change his game. …

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