The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to go up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Final tonight against the Ottawa Senators, and they’ll have to do so without the services of three key players.
Patric Hornqvist, who missed Game 2, Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz, will all be out of the Penguins’ lineup Tuesday night. Trevor Daley, who’s been injured since Game 5 of Round 2, and Mark Streit, who hasn’t played at all this postseason, will be game-time decisions. Head coach Mike Sullivan could opt to go 11 forwards and seven defensemen as Daley, who will participate in warm-ups, was paired with Olli Maatta during their morning skate.
“I think it’s a challenge this League presents. Every team goes through it. We’ve had our fair share of it, maybe a little bit more than most, but what I love about this group of players is no one’s looking for excuses,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “Everybody’s looking for answers. The guys that get opportunities to go back into the lineup, they go in with the mindset that they want to make a difference, and that’s just a credit to the character of the players that we have.”
Schultz looked to have injured his shoulder in Game 2, while Rust left the game after being on the receiving end of a big Dion Phaneuf hit. Schultz skated alone for a few minutes and left the ice before the Penguins began their skate.
“Any time you have adversity like that, it’s easy to fold. I mean, you can kind of feel bad for yourselves and be like, oh, Tanger’s out, Daley’s out, now possibly Schultz,” said defenseman Brian Dumoulin on Tuesday. “I feel bad. I mean, we kind of rallied around it, and our system, everyone knows the details. Everyone knows what we’re doing out there. So I think that’s the good thing that we have.”
And this is why Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford went out and got guys like Streit and Ron Hainsey at the trade deadline. With a team that’s constantly besieged by injuries throughout the lineup, now is a great time to be able to go to your depth for help. It’s also important to have depth in your organization for times like these when you can call up players from your AHL side and have them seamlessly transition into your forward groups or defensive pairings.
The Penguins are very familiar with these types of situations, as it hasn’t just been this season that they’ve had to adjust on-the-fly when injuries have hit their roster.
“I think we have a core group here that’s been together for a while. I think there’s a lot of familiarity with the type of game that we’re trying to play with our team concept,” Sullivan said. “So when these guys step in around some of the periphery or the role players step in around the core guys, I think they can become a stabilizing factor for us.”
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