Dan Bylsma talked to the media this morning in Pittsburgh and gave the following updates for the Penguins players.
- Beau Bennett is day-to-day with a lower body injury that happened in Saturday’s game against the Lightning that limited him to only 6:03 played and just a couple of shifts after the first period. Not much of an update if Bennett would play this week, so we’ll have to look and see if he can at least participate in the morning skate and go from there.
- Kris Letang was scheduled to skate 30 minutes today with the team and did so. “Kris is still in progression…This was another step up and ramp up for where he’s at.” Letang still “needs to progress” in his rehab as he makes his way towards getting in the lineup.
- James Neal “still week-to-week”
- Matt D’Agostini is scheduled to practice with the team next week.
When asked about the Bennett injury and what sort of player the Pens might need (top six, lower line player, etc)- Bylsma referenced “what we can do, and what we would like to do in terms of calling up what kind of player” for what role they needed to fill. “The second half of last game Chuck Kobasew was used on a line with [Evgeni ]Malkin,” Bylsma said, and that would be the case moving forward should Bennett miss time for this injury. If that’s the case, the Penguins may be looking for a 3rd line winger, or maybe 4th liner if they elect to bump up Tanner Glass or Craig Adams to work with Dustin Jeffrey and Brandon Sutter on the third line.
Down in Wilkes-Barre, Chris Conner (3g, 1a) and Harry Zolnierczyk (3g, 0a) have been the most productive forwards (along with WB/S captain Tom Kostopolous, who’s on an AHL contract and seems to want to be there for the season and not be subjected to waivers again like last year). The Pens are certainly familiar with Conner, who’s played 68 games with Pittsburgh in parts of two seasons between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Salary cap wise, without a corresponding move, it appears the Pens are currently too close to the upper-limit to be able to make a call-up, so they may be forced to play with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen- either with playing Deryk Engelland as a 4th line winger, or using him as a spare defensemen and double-shifting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the 4th liners. Or, if Neal’s status remains as murky as it seems, he could always be placed on LTIR (meaning he’d miss at least the next six games) and then there would be the salary space to call-up whomever they wanted.
A lot of pieces are in play, it sounds like Bennett is the only player close to returning, with Letang further behind and then Neal and D’Agostini aren’t really on the radar for returns just quite yet. For the short-term this is good news for Kobasew and 19-year old defensemen Olli Maatta who will continue to find themselves getting more opportunities due to all these early season injuries.