Some more tough news came out of Pittsburgh on Sunday morning as the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that defenseman Brian Dumoulin will be out at least two months after he had surgery to repair lacerated tendons in his left ankle. The injury is just the latest in a series for the Penguins this season.
On top of their top-pair defenseman, the Penguins are also without captain Sidney Crosby, who will miss at least another four weeks after he underwent core-muscle surgery on November 14, and center Nick Bjugstad, who will miss at least seven more weeks with a similar injury. He had surgery on November 22. Defenseman Justin Schultz, who has missed the last six games, is also out long-term with a lower-body injury.
The Penguins hit the 100-man games lost mark on Saturday when the puck dropped in their 5-2 loss at the St. Louis Blues and they currently rank second in the NHL in that category, behind only the Detroit Red Wings.
“Never this many, for this long,” head coach Mike Sullivan responded when asked if he has ever seen injuries pile up this often after Saturday night’s loss.
In Saturday night’s game, the Penguins had three defensemen who played more than 25 minutes, including Jack Johnson who has seen his play decline over the past several seasons and is 32-years old. Rookie defenseman John Marino was forced to play 21:03 while 23-year old defenseman Marcus Pettersson played 25:12 after Dumoulin played just 35 seconds.
The loss of defenseman Olli Maatta, who was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on June 15 in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in last summer’s draft, sparked concern over the Penguins’ blueline and the losses of Dumoulin and Schultz has sapped their defensive depth. In addition, defenseman Kris Letang just returned from an eight-game absence due to a lower-body injury and injuries have been nothing new for 32-year old during his career, especially the past few seasons.
In addition to injuries among the defensive corps, the Penguin have piled up injuries mong their top forwards, with Evgeni Malkin, who missed 11 games with a lower-body injury earlier this season; Alex Galchenyuk, who has missed nine due to a lower-body injury; and Patric Hornqvist, who was out for seven because of a lower-body injury, all missing time.
The Penguins have just six players who have played in all 27 games so far this season. Of those, the only top-tier player is forward Jake Guentzel, who is the only Penguin to hit the double-digit mark in goals (15) and leads the team in points (27).
Despite going through a rash of injuries to start the season, the Penguins have stayed afloat in the Eastern Conference. While they have lost two straight in regulation, they currently have a three-point cushion for the first wild-card spot, with the New York Rangers nipping at their heels with two games in hand. With the position they are in, the Penguins will certainly be one tough out once they do get healthy, though they better hope that their blueline heals soon or it may be too little, too late for them.
By Harrison Brown