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Get to Know a Penguin: Ian Cole

As part of the build-up to the second-round playoff series between the Capitals and the Penguins, Japers' Rink will be looking at some of the important but perhaps lesser-known players on the Penguins and how they might impact the series.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Cole

#28 / Defenseman / Pittsburgh Penguins

6-1 |  219 |  February 21, 1989

Ann Arbor, MI |  18th, 2007 (St. Louis)

Assets Can play a quality shutdown role, if need be. Has good size and strength, the ability to play a physical brand of hockey from the back end and some puck-moving skills.
Flaws Doesn't have the high-end ability to be much of a factor on power plays. Needs to become more consistent in order to maximize his overall shutdown acumen.
Career Potential Solid defenseman. (Assets, Flaws and Career Potential via The Hockey News player page)

Career 25-Game Rolling Five-on-Five Corsi-For Percentage:

Cole Rolling CF%

2015-16 Even-Strength Usage Chart:

PIT Usage

Why you should know who he is: Cole is as close to a "shutdown" defender as the Penguins have, and alongside Ben Lovejoy, forms a pair tasked with doing just that... or are they? While Cole is second in the playoffs in shorthanded minutes per game among blueliners (behind our pal Nick Schultz of the Flyers), his deployment during the regular season was pretty flat regardless of whether the Pens were leading or trailing by a goal or two, and as you can see in the chart above (and one here), he didn't see much time against top competition. Interesting.

Cole isn't much of a threat to produce offense, and was sixth among the Pens' six regular defensemen in even-strength ice time in Round 1 and only averaged 22 shifts per game. Cole skated with a bunch of different partners in a handful of different roles during the regular season, but it looks like Mike Sullivan has settled on him being more or less a third-pair penalty-kill specialist... for now, at least.

How the Caps can stop him: You don't game plan to stop Ian Cole, you play hockey and hopefully stop Ian Cole along the way. That said, the Caps will need to take essentially the same approach against Cole as they will against the rest of Pittsburgh's blueline, namely forechecking hard but smart, applying pressure and physicality and hopefully generating some turnovers and wear-and-tear. Cole will have his work cut out for him on the penalty kill, but if the Caps can force him into a bigger role at even-strength, that may be to their benefit - his five-on-five numbers when playing with Kris Letang (and Sidney Crosby) this season were somewhat ugly.

Previously: Matt Murray | Patric Hornqvist | Tom Kuhnhackl | Eric Fehr | Nick Bonino | Conor Sheary