Mike Sullivan said Evan Rodrigues deserves full credit for taking advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to the forward because of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ rash of injuries through the first half of the season.
Sullivan, the Penguins coach, joined the “NHL @TheRink” podcast this week and talked to co-hosts Dan Rosen and Shawn P. Roarke about Rodrigues, who has scored 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 31 games.
Rodrigues has topped his previous career high in goals by four and needs three points to match his career high in points for a season, 29 (nine goals, 20 assists) in 74 games with the Buffalo Sabres in 2018-19.
The Penguins (18-8-5) have won eight straight games and are fourth in the Metropolitan Division with 41 points. They play the St. Louis Blues at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT, NHL LIVE).
“When we first acquired him from Buffalo he played some games on [Sidney] Crosby’s line,” Sullivan said. “He did the same thing the following year. What our coaching staff noticed is he has a quiet confidence about him that he can play on a line with Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin and he doesn’t feel the pressure associated with that role. When you play up a lineup on a team like ours in Pittsburgh, and when you play with a guy like Crosby, there is an expectation there. There is an expectation that that line produces and performs night in and night out. Every player handles that differently. … Our observation early on was ‘E-Rod’ is a guy that can handle that pressure. He doesn’t get rattled by it. He has that quiet confidence and he has the offensive instincts to be able to think the game well enough to be able to play with those types of players. This year in particular he’s been given a significant amount of opportunity to play in the top six and he’s maximized that opportunity.”
Sullivan also praised the play of goalie Tristan Jarry, saying the key for the 26-year-old was coming into training camp in shape and getting off to a strong start.
Jarry is 15-5-4 with a 1.93 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and three shutouts in 24 games.
“In training camp that was a conversation I had with our coaching staff, we’ve got to try to do our best to put Tristan in a position to be successful here,” Sullivan said. “Because if we can get him off to a good start it will be really good for his confidence and it should help him moving forward. To his credit he’s done a terrific job. … He’s without a doubt been one of our best players to this point. He’s a big reason why we’re where we are in the standings and we’re excited about potentially where he can take this team moving forward.”
In addition, Rosen and Roarke talked a lot about goaltending across the NHL, specifically the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals needing more depth at the position.
They also discussed why the Oilers are slumping, going 2-8-2 in their past 12 games, and analyzed if the Calgary Flames should be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
The “NHL @TheRink” podcast is free and listeners can subscribe on all podcast platforms. It is also available on NHL.com/multimedia/podcasts and the NHL app.
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