Very tough news for the Pittsburgh Penguins was announced by Coach Mike Sullivan today, defenseman Trevor Daley suffered a broken ankle on Friday night and will be out for the rest of the playoffs.
The injury occurred on this play with Ryan Callahan delivering a fairly routine hit to Daley.
Callahan hit on Daley. Daley injured as a result. pic.twitter.com/3M292qHKOJ— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) May 21, 2016
This is devastating blow for the Penguins defense. Daley has been playing 22:08 per game these playoffs, second most on the team among defensemen behind only Kris Letang. Daley is a core player on the penalty kill as well, logging 2 minutes a game there.
Daley also factors in heavily to the Pens breakouts as a good puck-mover and has a goal and 5 assists in the 15 playoff games.
The Penguins have Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot as depth, with Maatta skating in practice with Letang, indicating he will be the next man up. Maatta has had an uneven postseason and has struggled in general for much of the second half of the year. The 21 year old last played on May 13th for Game 1 against Tampa, a game that featured a huge mistake on the first goal of the game. Maatta has only played 2 games since being concussed by Brooks Orpik on April 30th.
It goes without saying but the Penguins will need a big bounce-back from Maatta to help fill the void that Daley is leaving. It's a shame Daley's wonderful season has come to an end in this fashion, but that's life in the NHL playoffs - injuries are going to happen and the best teams find ways to overcome them.
In other developments, Sullivan has named his starting goalie.
Coach Sullivan says that Marc-Andre Fleury is in net tonight, and the rest of the lineup is a game-time decision.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 22, 2016
As we pointed out, both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray have cases to be in the net. Both have had solid seasons, though Fleury's effectiveness due to not playing since a March 31st concussion could be an issue, but this isn't his first rodeo and he's got plenty of experience.
Here's an interesting one too, Beau Bennett has been cleared by doctors and has practiced this morning on a power play unit. There was little to no hope that he would be available for postseason play earlier in the playoffs, however it looks like things have changed.
Bennett sounded very confident that he will play tonight. Has been cleared.— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) May 22, 2016
Beau Bennett has been cleared to return to #pens lineup. Wouldn't be surprised to see him in Game 5 tonight.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 22, 2016
It's never wise to get excited about the perpetually injured Bennett, however the team could use him now more than ever. With their 3 best forwards spread across 3 different lines, the Pens have wingers placed in difficult positions with guys like Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust skating on lines with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bennett would add some skill to the lineup, but the question as always goes back to durability.
Bennett has only played 9 games since suffering a shoulder injured in December against Washington, which he reinjured and has kept him lately from being cleared to play. We'll see how long he can stay around this time.