- While the Penguins are still evaluating the injury to Sidney Crosby, they’ve already announced (Twitter link) that he has been ruled out for tomorrow’s game against the Rangers. Crosby suffered a lower-body injury early in the third period on Saturday versus Chicago. While his offensive output is down this season (he has 17 points in as many games), he’s still Pittsburgh’s top player and leading scorer and any prolonged absence would be a tough blow.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got another injury scare — something the team is starting to get used to. This time, it was Sidney Crosby who left the third period of Saturday’s game against Chicago with 18:51 remaining in the game with an undisclosed injury. TribLive’s Seth Rorabaugh reports that there has been no report on Crosby’s status with the next update likely to come on Monday.
A team that is already with defensive star Kris Letang, the team would not want to be without Crosby, the team’s leading scorer who has 17 points in 17 games this season and a vital cog to the team’s success.
- After Columbus Blue Jackets’ goaltender Joonas Korpisalo received a warning from head coach John Tortorella on Oct. 26 when he attacked a goalpost with his stick in a rage after allowing a key goal. Tortorella replied to the press that it wouldn’t happen again. However, The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (subscription required) writes that Kopisalo was at it again Saturday night after giving up a goal to Nazem Kadri to give Colorado a 4-2 lead with 2:06 remaining in the game. The 25-year-old immediately slashed at the goalpost with his stick and then fished out the puck and sent it down the ice in another angered rage, something that likely didn’t please Tortorella at all. Coincidentally, the Blue Jackets recalled Elvis Merzlikins Sunday in response, despite the fact that the young goalie was expected to spend more time in Cleveland to work on his game. He only made one appearance with the Monsters so far. According to reports, Merzlikins has a good chance at getting the starting nod against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
- When some speculation that the New York Islanders might have seen the last of prospect forward Oliver Wahlstrom for the rest of the season, that may in fact be the case, according to comments made by head coach Barry Trotz. Wahlstrom was assigned to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers Friday after he had reached his ninth game with the NHL squad, meaning if he appeared in one more game, he would burn the first year of his entry-level contract. Wahlstrom didn’t necessarily make the most of his chances as he averaged just 10:17 of ATOI and failed to register a point for the team. Trotz confirmed that Wahlstrom must continue to work on his game, according to Newsday’s Andrew Gross. “He’s a young player who’s got loads of skill and he’s gotten this far on loads of skill. Now he’s got to learn the game,” said Trotz. “At every level he’s been a talent, he’s been the biggest, strongest sort of the most talented guy. Well, no one has really taught him the game for the most part.”
The first professional season for Kasper Bjorkqvist will not be what he or many Penguins fans had hoped. The former Providence College captain entered the year with high expectations after back-to-back strong seasons of NCAA play and looked like the exact type of intelligent and hard-working two-way forward that Pittsburgh could use. It was not a major surprise that he did not break camp with the NHL club, but there remained speculation that he would not have to spend much time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before earning his first career recall. Unfortunately, as it turns out he will have to wait until next year at the earliest for that promotion. Just six games into his AHL season, Bjorkqvist suffered a knee injury and was sidelined. WBS beat writer Jason Iacona now reports that Bjorkqvist has undergone surgery on his knee and the expected timeline for recovery is six months. As Iacona states, this essentially ends his season. The earliest conceivable return for Bjorkqvist would be during the Calder Cup playoffs, should the AHL Penguins qualify, and that’s only if the Pittsburgh brass decide it is worth it to get him back on the ice this season. Most likely, the talented Finnish winger will be shut down until next season in hopes that he can resume play at full strength and compete for an NHL role again next year.
- If trade value at the junior level is any indication of NHL Entry Draft stock, Ben King is a 2020 draft prospect on the rise. The 17-year-old forward was dealt by the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos to the Red Deer Rebels this week for a rather hefty return of two players – including recent first-rounder Cohner Seleski – the rights to a third player, and a third-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. Such packages are usually reserved for veteran junior players who can be immediate difference-makers for a contender, but head coach and GM Brent Sutter clearly sees something that he likes in King and opted for the long-term play. A first-round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, King recorded 26 points in 48 games for Swift Current in his first season with the team in 2018-19 and had eight points through his first 16 games this year. King, who usually lines up at center, has a sturdy frame and plays a patient, play-making style. He still has room to grow, both physically and in his skill development, but early expectations have been that is already in consideration for selection in the third or fourth round of the coming draft. And with this vote of confidence from the well-respected Sutter, that may just be the floor of where one might expect King to go in June.
- A new name in Canadian juniors is Adam Samuelsson. The son of Ulf and brother of Philip and Henrik, Samuelsson comes from a strong hockey background and was once considered a future NHL prospect. However, things started going downhill when he surprisingly went undrafted out of the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2018. Then, he struggled at Boston College early last season and ended up on the bench for much of the first half of the season before leaving school to join the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. It isn’t uncommon for college players experiencing production issues or a poor fit to return to juniors before transferring to another NCAA team, but Samuelsson instead returned to Sioux City this season in a confusing move, especially considering his improved play after leaving BC. It appears now that this was simply a precursor to his true intentions. The hulking defenseman has signed on with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, who had drafted him back in 2016. The team’s press release indicates that they have been pushing to sign Samuelsson for years and the blue liner finally decided to give up on the collegiate path and head to Ontario. It remains to be seen if Samuelsson can re-assert himself as an NHL prospect, but with two years of junior eligibility, there is plenty of time to show that he is a pro-quality player like his dad and brothers.
The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t been able to stay healthy at all this season. Just as they were starting to get some of their pieces back up front, head coach Mike Sullivan announced today that Kris Letang will be out “week-to-week” with a lower-body injury.
Letang sat out the team’s last game against the New York Islanders, which led to Justin Schultz playing a season-high 25:20 in the win. That’s likely the way the Penguins will navigate their top defenseman’s absence, leaning on Schultz to eat a lot of the vacant minutes.
Another player to keep an eye on though is young John Marino, who has been used extensively in the past few games as he continues his impressive rookie campaign. The 22-year old was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in the summer for a sixth-round pick and quickly decided to leave Harvard for the professional ranks. That has paid off so far for the Penguins, who add a capable defender for almost nothing.
No third period lead is safe when the Boston Bruins are on the ice this season, as three consecutive goals by their star players put the Pittsburgh Penguins to sleep last night. Brad Marchand had another five-point evening, making him and linemate David Pastrnak the two leading scorers in the NHL. They’ll be tested tonight on the second half of a back-to-back when they face the Montreal Canadiens, but nothing seems to be able to slow down the Bruins at this point. As they and the rest of the league prepare for a full night of NHL hockey, we’ll keep track of all the minor moves.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled Nic Petan from the minor leagues, giving them another option up front for tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Petan had five points in two games for the Toronto Marlies, proving once again that he is too good for the AHL. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s getting back into the NHL lineup though, especially if John Tavares is returning tonight for the Maple Leafs, something that is likely but has yet to be confirmed.
- The New York Islanders have brought back Otto Koivula recalling him from the minor leagues along with Seth Helgeson. Koivula didn’t get a chance to play in the NHL during his last recall, while Helgeson has also not been given an opportunity with the Islanders despite being part of the organization for the last several seasons. The Islanders take on the Ottawa Senators tonight, looking for their tenth consecutive win.
- Kyle Capobianco is back with the Arizona Coyotes for the time being while they deal with injuries on defense. Jordan Oesterle took a shot to the head last night against the Edmonton Oilers and may be sitting out according to Craig Morgan of The Athletic, which may provide another opportunity for Capobianco to get into some NHL action. To make room, the team has returned Michael Chaput to the AHL.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled Sam Lafferty from the minor leagues, giving them another body after they were forced to use assistant coach Mark Recchi at practice today. The Penguins can’t seem to get completely healthy, though Brian Dumoulin’s absence from practice today was so that he could spend some time with his newborn child.
While injuries are nothing new for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team took another hit Sunday when the team announced that winger Patric Hornqvist will be placed on injured reserve and is expected to be out “longer term” with a lower-body injury. Hornqvist left Saturday’s game in the third period and did not play in overtime.
That’s bad news as Hornqvist has been an important piece to the Penguins’ offense as he is tied for second on the team with five goals this season and will be missed on the team’s top-six. The news comes just as another player returned Saturday. The team has been without Evgeni Malkin since Oct. 5, but the star forward made his return against Edmonton in their overtime loss on Saturday. Malkin played 19:45, despite not registering a point. However, the loss of Hornqvist doesn’t help a team that has lost four of their last six
The 32-year-old Hornqvist had a somewhat disappointing season last year with 18 goals and 19 assists, both career lows. However, Hornqvist looked better early this season, posting five goals and 10 points in 14 games as well as six points in the last seven games. Bryan Rust is expected to fill Hornqvist’s role on the second line for the time being.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to get their other superstar center back in action. The team has announced that Evgeni Malkin has been activated from the injured reserve. The expectation is that Malkin will be ready to suit up when the Penguins face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
Malkin has missed all but two games so far this season with an undisclosed leg injury and has just one point to show for the young campaign. The 33-year-old pivot’s 11-game absence has him on pace for a maximum 71 games this season, but it’s very likely that this will be another sub-70 game season for Malkin. Since 2012 he has only cracked the 70-game mark once, as injuries have been a consistent presence. In that one healthy season, Malkin recorded 98 points, the closest he has come to cracking 100 points as he did three times in his first six NHL seasons. Whereas his maximum point total in the other five seasons since 2012 has been 72 points. Malkin has still been one of the game’s more dominant offensive players for more than a decade now, but Penguins fans should probably temper their expectations of what to expect for the rest of the year from Malkin, who is likely in for another 70-odd point season at best.
With Malkin returning to the lineup, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike DeFabo writes that Dominik Kahun is the most likely candidate to take a seat. It’s amazing to think that the Penguins are now to the point that they are benching a capable, young trade acquisition when not long ago they were forced to play defenseman Juuso Riikola at forward due to an onslaught of injuries up front. Pittsburgh managed to go 7-4-0 without Malkin, while Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Bjugstad, and Jared McCann were all among those who have missed time during that stretch as well. Back at full strength finally, the Penguins will face a tough decision each night as to who to play, with Kahun looking like the first casualty.
Happy Halloween hockey fans! There are just two games on the schedule tonight, but it’s hard to imagine a better venue for a dress-up night than in Vegas where the Golden Knights will welcome in the Montreal Canadiens. Last night saw some spooky finishes too, with Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils even saying that the team is “kind of battling their own fans” after being booed consistently as they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-6.
As always, here are the minor moves around the hockey world.
- The Ottawa Senators have recalled J.C. Beaudin and Filip Chlapik once again, the same move they’ve made a few times now. Ottawa doesn’t play until Saturday night and is trying to keep their young players as fresh as possible with game opportunities in the minor leagues as well.
- With a back-to-back coming for the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team has recalled Markus Hannikainen as an extra forward. Columbus is in St. Louis tomorrow to take on the Blues before returning home for a date against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
- Kyle Capobianco is on his way back to the AHL, indicating that the Arizona Coyotes may be getting someone back from injury soon. The 22-year old defenseman has played in six games this season, even scoring his first NHL goal.
- Alexander Volkov apparently did enough to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning in his NHL debut last night, as the team has instead sent Cory Conacher back to the minor leagues.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have sent Sam Lafferty back to the minor leagues, another sign that Evgeni Malkin will indeed return on Saturday as planned. The 24-year old Lafferty showed that he could contribute at the NHL level, scoring six points in ten games this season despite relatively limited minutes.
As always, Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet has plenty of interesting hockey nuggets spanning the entire league. Most important to Pittsburgh Penguins fans however might be the fact that an extension with Marcus Pettersson is “all but done.” Pettersson, because he signed a one-year deal last month, isn’t techincally able to sign an extension until January 1st, but the two sides can still agree to terms.
The 23-year old defenseman has had a very strong start to the season, continuing the play he showed after being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks last year. Stepping into a bigger role for Pittsburgh he is now averaging close to 19 minutes a night on the season and trails only Kris Letang and Justin Schultz in terms of points from Penguins defensemen.
Snatched out of Anaheim in exchange for Daniel Sprong—who cleared waivers at the beginning of the month and is playing in the minor leagues—Pettersson looks like an absolute steal by GM Jim Rutherford. He’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the year and will be arbitration eligible for the first time, but is starting to look like a core piece for the team.
Interestingly, Friedman also writes that the Penguins are going to add another piece at some point. The team recently rid themselves of Erik Gudbranson—another addition that didn’t work out quite as well as Pettersson—and now actually have a little bit of flexibility in terms of their cap structure. While defense may be a target, Pettersson has worked his way into their plans for the future and should have a new contract in a few months.
Unlike the Boston Bruins, who have breezed past the competition this season even without their second line center, the Pittsburgh Penguins have had to fight just to hold their heads above water as they deal with injuries. Some of that is coming to an end however, as today the Penguins activated both Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Dumoulin from injured reserve.
Add in a returning Evgeni Malkin before long and the Penguins are close to full health as they enter November. The team currently sits at 7-5 on the season but find themselves out of a divisional playoff spot in the tough Metropolitan.
Galchenyuk, 25, was off to a strong start with his new team before injury struck, recording two assists in his first three games. The former 30-goal scorer was acquired in the offseason in the Phil Kessel trade and has big expectations as a top-six winger. Originally selected third overall in 2012, Galchenyuk has scored at least 17 goals in each of the past five seasons and can be a difference-maker on the powerplay.
Dumoulin meanwhile is expected to jump back onto the top pairing alongside Kris Letang and reclaim his position as the team’s Swiss army knife. The 28-year old can do a little bit of everything for the Penguins, including move the puck and play the powerplay when required. Still one of the more underrated players in the league despite his strong play in consecutive Stanley Cup runs, his return to the lineup may be as important as anyone else. The Penguins have gone 1-3 since his injury but will try to get back on track tonight against their state rival Philadelphia Flyers.