Jeff Carter will play center initially for Penguins, who plan on utilizing his versatility

Chris Adamski, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·4 min read

Apr. 13—Over his 1,080 career NHL games, Jeff Carter has played center and wing.

He has killed penalties, and he has worked on the power play.

At some points, he has been heavily relied upon as a scorer, and at others, he has served as a checking forward.

With his new team, all of the above are possible.

"Jeff is a right-handed shot who as a center has been consistently good in the faceoff circle (and) he can play wing," Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Tuesday, a day after his team acquired Carter in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. "So having that comfort level he has at both positions I think is a real bonus for our team.

"We have had some discussions about how to utilize him both in the short term and big picture when the time comes, and we have a full healthy complement of players. But in the meantime in the short term, he'll be a really healthy addition to our team."

In surrendering future conditional third- and fourth-round draft picks for Carter, the Penguins got a big (6-foot-3, 219 pounds), speedy forward who has 11 seasons of 20-plus goals on his resume. He also has averaged about a minute and a half of penalty-killing time per game over his 10 seasons with the Kings.

Sullivan said he envisions Carter playing on both Penguins special teams, though perhaps not on either No. 1 unit.

At five-on-five, Carter said he is "totally comfortable" at center or wing. Sullivan lauded adding Carter to a growing list of forwards capable at either. But despite Carter's late-career trend toward playing wing, Sullivan is leaning toward making him a center for his debut with the team Thursday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.

In part, that decision is because two centers — Evgeni Malkin and Frederick Gaudreau — are out "week-to-week" because of injury.

"Our first inclination is to try Jeff at the center position," Sullivan said after a workout Tuesday in Cranberry, "specifically because we think we need that at this particular point in time given the circumstances of the injuries, and that's a direct need that we think he can help us with."

Beyond the short term, Sullivan did not want to tip his hand on his plans for Carter's role, in part because the 36-year-old arrived in Pittsburgh less than 18 hours before he was speaking.

Carter's first practice with the Penguins is scheduled for Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena. Over video conference call with media, the 16-year veteran and two-time Stanley Cup winner sounded eager to join his new team on the ice.

"Having a chance to win (a championship), that's the ultimate goal no matter where you are every year," Carter said "Coming here and joining this team and the run they're on right now and the position we're in, it's exciting. I can't wait to get back to the playoffs and make a run at it."

Carter hasn't appeared in a playoff game in three years. The most recent playoff series he won was when his Kings beat the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

The Penguins, conversely, are well positioned to qualify for the postseason for the 16th consecutive season, the longest active run in the NHL. They are 15-4-1 over their past 20 games.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby made his NHL debut the same season as Carter (2005-06), but Carter was on the rival Flyers then. Though they've played together for Team Canada at international events since, the pair finally gets to team up at the NHL level.

"Sid and I were talking about that this morning," Carter said Tuesday, "just the battles that we had when we first came into the league and whatnot.

"But I always had a lot of respect for the veteran guys that are here that I played against: Sid and Malkin and (Kris) Letang and those guys. I'm just happy to be able to suit up with them now and am looking forward to it."

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .