Don't blame anyone who has blocked it out, but others may remember at the end of the 2014-2015 season -- when the Pittsburgh Penguins needed to win games late to sneak into the playoffs -- they were playing with an unusual roster of 13 forwards and 5 defenseman. They couldn't play with the standard 12F/6D due to a combination of bad luck and circumstance. Bad luck that a few defensemen (most notably Kris Letang) got hurt after the trade deadline. Circumstance because of the league rule that says an NHL team can only make 4 recalls from the AHL team from the trade deadline to the end of the regular season.
History, unfortunately, may be repeating itself. This time it's Pens forwards dropping like flies. We just learned Carl Hagelin is out at least 4 weeks with what's safe to assume is a broken foot/ankle. Matt Cullen (day-to-day, lower body) and Patric Hornqvist (concussion) have also gotten hurt in the last week. Last night against Vancouver, the Pens had to use an 11F/7D lineup because they only have 11 healthy forwards (not counting the suspended Tom Sestito who can't play for 2 more games).
The Penguins only have 1 recall left from Wilkes-Barre, having made 3 from March 8-10 alone. Sestito was the first, depth defenseman Cameron Gaunce was the second, and Oskar Sundqvist was brought up to replace Cullen.
With 4 weeks should the Pens lose their last callup now on a forward? The answer probably lies in information we don't know (as in how long Cullen and Hornqvist may be out). The risk of calling up a forward now would mean if 2 defensemen get injured, Pittsburgh would be unable to replace them and then the dreaded 13F/5D situation would be back.
It's bad luck and injury circumstance that's happened again, but disappointing that the Penguins apparently didn't learn lessons from 2015. It's not hindsight (I said it at the time last week) but using 1 recall on Gaunce and returning Derrick Pouliot to the AHL was a foolish move and waste of a recall. There's no good reason to make that move post-trade deadline, they should have been decisive enough to keep one of Pouliot or Gaunce in the NHL by the time of the deadline. That flushed one of a limited number of call-ups and was unnecessary timing to do so.
Similarly, the decision to bring Sestito up, only for him to be a bonehead and get a 4-game suspension after just 1:02 played, puts the Penguins in a hole and was a bad move strategically. It's also fairly easy to argue that if they wanted Sestito as muscle for the NHL stretch run, they could have called him up a week earlier as well, as to not have his recall count against the 4 post-deadline ones.
It's impossible to predict injuries and 3 important forwards all dropping within a week will stress any team's call-up situation, but the Penguins management team has again burned through all their call-ups and there is still four weeks left in the regular season.
Ideally the Pens have suffered the worst of the injury storm and this won't be too much of an issue going forward.
Speaking of storms, there's a nasty one brewing up the east coast in the next 24-48 hours. Here's a look at the snow Philly could receive on Monday night into Tuesday (s/t Natasha for pointing it out)
Nice job by the weatherman to bind all the colors so close together, eh? Based on this it looks like the Philly area could see anywhere from 4-10+ inches depending on how the bands shake out.
Anyways, this is relevant here because after playing in Calgary tomorrow night, the Pens will probably need to fly a red-eye on Monday night, or at-worst sometime Tuesday morning. Travel conditions will not be ideal, at this point hopefully the airports are able to be open. Could be a developing story to watch.
Fun stat of the day from the Trib's Jonathan Bomulie
Here’s a pretty amazing stat. The Penguins have won five in a row. Crosby and Kessel have combined for zero goals during that stretch. (39 shots, but zero goals)