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Nick Bonino out "at least a month"

The Pittsburgh Penguins depth well be tested even further with a key player going down

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford gave an update today on center Nick Bonino and it's not good. Bonino is injured and expected to be out "at least a month" according to Rutherford. The nature of the injury, of course, was not revealed because this is hockey and the Penguins we're talking about. Bonino was injured in Tuesday night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Bonino has been disappointing scoring just 3 goals and 7 assists this season, but he also is one of just 3 forwards to average 2+ minutes a night short-handed (Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr being the others). The Pens PK unit has been great of late, and Bonino has pulled his weight there.

Rutherford has said the team will attempt to backfill internally. This probably means Fehr (a natural right winger, but one with center experience last season) will shift to the middle. Cullen, 39, has played well and could be a candidate for more ice-time at even strength. Kevin Porter doesn't offer much at even-strength but the team has liked him on the PK (where he's played 1:57 per game in 21 games this season and not been on ice for a goal against) will almost certainly continue to play. Sergei Plotnikov has been a healthy scratch more often than not lately, this stretch will be a critical time for him since he'll have a chance to play some games.

Other star players who haven't played much PK time this season like Sidney Crosby (0:32), Chris Kunitz (0:30) and even Evgeni Malkin (0:20) might be pulled into killing penalties more, especially Crosby and Malkin for faceoff purposes since Bonino is 2nd on the team behind Cullen in SH faceoffs this year.

If Bonino can return in exactly a month, he will be out for 13 games. Given that the GM said "at least" but offered no further details, it will probably be quite a while before we know exactly when he could return, but at this point it will be a large chunk of the season. The Penguins were supposed to have great forward depth but with Bonino and Beau Bennett currently injured, Pascal Dupuis having to retire and Daniel Sprong back in Juniors, they suddenly have a very unsettled looking bottom-six now.