Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, where we cover all the hot topics about the club and dive into more than just box scores. Get ready for some rapid-fire headlines that will run us through all the noise surrounding Pittsburgh’s beloved Penguins.
Penguins Sniper Out Week-to-Week
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed on Wednesday some unfortunate news — forward Jake Guentzel is going to be out a couple of weeks due to an upper-body injury. It appears the injury occurred during the Penguins’ recent matchup with the Seattle Kraken where Guentzel took a puck to the hand. The team would not confirm, but there’s some speculation brewing it could be a broken bone in his hand.
Guentzel has been on an absolute heater of late, scoring seven goals in his last five games. The veteran winger has been lights out since Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup and was sitting at 27 points total in the 24 games he’s appeared in. Sadly, he’ll be missing some time here after not being a participant at practice on Wednesday. Penguins forward Jason Zucker was also not in attendance at practice, but word is it was strictly a maintenance day.
The Penguins will need Zucker to step up in a major way with Guentzel out of the lineup, along with Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen. The three should be given much more ice time on the top two lines and they have some huge shoes to fill if they want to be able to match the production of Guentzel. This certainly could be a now-or-never type of scenario for Zucker who has been named in several trade rumors this season. If he’s unable to be more productive than one assist in his past seven games, Penguins management may formally ask him about waiving his no-trade protection. As of now, the team can only trade him to 22 teams.
Penguins Aren’t Expected to Make Any Call-Ups
It always seems like the Penguins are dealing with some kind of injury trouble and this season certainly has not been any different. The only issue right now, though, is the fact coach Sullivan confirmed the team is not likely to be calling anyone up from the American Hockey League (AHL), as their affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Penguins play back-to-back games this week on Friday against the Washington Capitals and Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks. While things could change before the weekend, it appears the Penguins will be sticking to the players on their current roster. As defenseman Marcus Pettersson puts it, the team always has a next man up mentality:
The line rushes were all over the place on Wednesday as both Zucker and Guentzel were absent. The Penguins’ depth chart is currently wide open, with a giant window of opportunity gaping for most of their wingers. While Crosby, Jeff Carter, and Evan Rodriguez have been consistently productive, the team’s going to need some other players to step up these next couple of weeks.
Minor Trade Could Stop the Bleeding in Pittsburgh
While the Penguins can’t risk it and call-up anyone from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, management may have to look to other NHL clubs for some depth. The Penguins are expected to get Evgeni Malkin back before the Christmas break, and while that’s obviously going to help, adding another winger wouldn’t hurt.
There’s a number of teams who are already almost out of the playoff picture who could be open to making some moves, including the Seattle Kraken, Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings. All three teams have some forward depth on expiring contracts who could get the Penguins’ attention. Pittsburgh would certainly benefit from adding another winger who can also play down the middle. Considering the amount of injury troubles the team deals with on a regular basis, roster versatility is premium moving forward.
One player who slowed down the trade chatter was Casey DeSmith. The backup netminder put in an excellent performance recently in Seattle to secure his first victory. There’s been a significant amount of speculation about DeSmith’s role on this team and it was great to see him clear the goose egg in the win column.
The Penguins sit 12-8-5 heading into this weekend and are coming off an impressive two-game stretch against the Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken. Guentzel provided the offense and both goaltenders were able to secure victories. Look for the coaching staff to get creative over these next couple weeks as they try and plug a giant hole left by Guentzel’s absence. Feels like we could see a minor trade coming out of Pittsburgh — stay tuned.
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Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween