The sudden losses of Jason Zucker and Jeff Petry to injuries complicate the Pens’ streak of success.
The Penguins are headed to the warm sunshine of Florida for their traditional highly anticipated mid-winter trip out of the Pittsburgh weather. This time around things aren't so sunny in the Pens locker room, however.
Wednesday brought news that Jason Zucker and Jeff Petry are out for the longer term with injuries. The Penguins have lost two critical players in their top six forwards and top four defensemen in one fell swoop.
Jason Zucker is "week-to-week" with a lower-body injury and did not travel to Florida with the rest of the team. He appears to have been injured on this sequence where he blocked a shot late in the game vs. the Stars on Monday:
Jeff Petry was characterized as out "longer term" from an undisclosed injury by the team. It seems like he was hurt back on Saturday during the second of two back-to-back games vs. the Buffalo Sabres. He jammed his arm into the boards during a check:
The Pens now have to focus on filling in the gaps on the roster for the next few weeks without two key players. That leaves a lot of weight left to be carried by the rest of the team in a critical stretch of the season as they try to continue a six-game winning streak to boot.
One of the players who will be counted on to step up in these major absences is Pierre-Olivier Joseph on defense without Petry. "POJ" scored his second-ever NHL goal and first powerplay goal last game against Dallas. Joseph has been quietly strong this season since his full-time promotion from the minor leagues. He's registered one goal, seven assists, and eight points, and is a +11 in 25 games played this year.
While Zucker's void might be best filled by Kasperi Kapanen shockingly enough. Kapanen's new net-front-based style is similar to Zucker's and although he sat out for a long time as a healthy scratch he's got seven points in the last six games since returning to the line-up. That includes a huge hat trick vs. St. Louis. Danton Heinen will get the first crack at Zucker's spot to start however for minimal roster disruption. But keep an eye on how the Penguins handle that line if they cannot get production with Heinen there, after his recent struggles. Kapanen might be their "Plan B" option.
Now on to tonight's game info:
Pens Game #30: Pittsburgh Penguins at Florida Panthers
Date: December 15, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Sunrise, FL
Venue: FLA Live Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Records- PIT: 17-8-4, FLA: 14-12-4
Last 10- PIT: 8-1-1, FLA: 4-4-2
Streaks- PIT: 6 Wins, FLA: 1 Win
Standings- PIT: 6th, FLA: 18th
Points- PIT: 38, FLA: 32
‘21/22 Season Series- 2-1 FLA
‘21/22 Series Goals For- PIT: 10, FLA: 11
Team Stats Comparison:
Projected starting goalies-
-TRISTAN JARRY- #35
Bio Info: 6' 2", 194 lbs. DOB: 4/29/1995 (27). From: Surrey, BC.
Drafted: 2013- Rd 2, Pk 44 (PIT). Experience: 7th Season.
Record: 13-3-3, 2.67 GAA, .920 SV%
Career vs. FLA: 2-2-0, 3.33 GAA, .901 SV%
-SERGEI BOBROVSKY- #72
Bio Info: 6' 2", 182 lbs. DOB: 9/20/1988 (34). From: Novokuznetsk, USSR.
Drafted: Undrafted. Experience: 12th Season.
Record: 6-8-1, 3.35 GAA, .889 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 15-9-6, 2.84 GAA, .909 SV%
In addition to the Penguins' six-game win streak, goalie Tristan Jarry is now undefeated in his last five outings. His early season struggles appear to have been just some nagging injury issues that he's worked through.
Jeff Petry was placed on Injured Reserve (retroactive to December 11th) for his injury which indicates he's expected to miss at least 10 games or 24 days. That would put his return in the middle of the first week of January. It's a long absence to have to fill in. It also means he'll likely be out for the Winter Classic in Boston on January 2nd.
On replacement players: Danton Heinen will enter the lineup in Jason Zucker’s spot. Chad Ruhwedel will be the new addition on defense without Petry although he’ll slot in on the third pair with P.O. Joseph. Jan Rutta was bumped from the third pair up to the second in Petry's place. The Pens also called up Drew O’Connor and Mark Friedman to be their extra forward and defenseman respectively in the wake of these new injuries.
-Jeff Petry (D): IR, upper body, out until January.
-Jason Zucker (F): lower body, week-to-week.
The projected Penguins lines for Thursday, December 15, 2022, at the Florida Panthers:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Danton Heinen
Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Marcus Pettersson - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Jan Rutta
P. O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rakell, Letang
PP2: Carter, Rust, Heinen, Kapanen, Joseph
PK1: Blueger, McGinn, Dumoulin, Rutta
PK2: Poehling, Rust, Ruhwedel, Letang
Are the Penguins' biological weapons? Perhaps! The Panthers' leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk is a game-time decision for tonight after falling ill after Florida played Columbus recently. The same Columbus team that just played the Pens a few days ago right after Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Casey DeSmith were ill. (News story.)
Carter Verhaeghe, Florida's number two point scorer, and backup goalie Spencer Knight have also been bitten by the illness bug going around. Verhaeghe, however, was present for the Panthers' morning skate and appears like he'll be able to play tonight.
The Panthers are also dealing with injuries and have amassed quite a list of them compared to the Penguins' two. (See below.) They'll be without forward star Anthony Duclair, hard-hitting D-man Radko Gudas, and beloved former Pen Patric Hornqvist, who's dealing with yet another concussion unfortunately.
Key players added: Forwards- Nick Cousins, Matthew Tkachuk, Colin White. Defenseman- Marc Staal.
Key players lost: Forwards- Claude Giroux, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mason Marchment. Defenseman- Ben Chiarot.
New coach: Paul Maurice.
-Anthony Duclair (F): achilles, out until January.
-Radko Gudas (D): IR, concussion, day-to-day.
-Patric Hornqvist (F): IR, upper body, out until January.
-Anton Lundell (F): upper body, day-to-day.
-Chris Tierney (F): concussion, day-to-day.
-Colin White (F): upper body, day-to-day
For The Penguins: Evgeni Malkin. "Geno" currently is on a six-game point streak. He's racked up nine points during that time. And all but one point came as an assist, until his game-winning goal on Monday vs. Dallas. He's the hot playmaking hand for the Birds right now.
For The Panthers: Anton Lundell. If he's able to play (being day-to-day with an upper-body injury) Lundell has been a consistent contributor lately for Florida. He's produced four points in his last five games. Three of those points are goals. His role could be increased with the long injured list for the Panthers as well.