The Game 3 lineup tonight for the Pittsburgh Penguins will be quite different from earlier incarnations from this spring. Lineup staples in Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz are all out with injuries, the latter two missing their first full game.
Sullivan: Hornqvist, Rust and Schultz are out tonight— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) May 17, 2017
This is a huge blow to the team- Rust was playing first line wing (where Hornqvist was earlier) and Schultz is their best offensive-minded defenseman.
How will they press on? Seems like Trevor Daley and/or Mark Streit will be the answer from the coaching staff
Daley taking rushes. #Pens D-pairs:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) May 17, 2017
Mark Streit working with the top power play. Looks like the Pens could be considering going 11/7.— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) May 17, 2017
And since Tom Kuhnhackl was skating late with the scratches, that's a good indicator he is getting bumped tonight for the aforementioned 11 forward, 7 defensemen alignment.
#Pens lines:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) May 17, 2017
Different players will have to double shift with Matt Cullen and Carter Rowney on the 4th line.
It remains to be seen if this setup will pay off for the Penguins. On one hand, it makes sense; with Schultz out, so too is the lone healthy top PP defenseman. Adding Streit for the power play is practically a must -- tough to imagine Olli Maatta or Brian Dumoulin playing well and helping the top unit to create scoring chances.
But at 39 years old (and no games since April 9 back in the regular season finale), they probably don't want to trust Streit with a full, normal role at even-strength. Thus adding an extra defenseman helps at least lighten the burden on the rest of the already patchwork skeleton crew.
Offensively, Pittsburgh will be more reliant on their star players more than ever. With several of the forwards not really generating any scoring chances or coming close to putting pucks in the net, for tonight it's pretty much up to Crosby, Guentzel, Malkin and Kessel to carry the load. Guys like Scott Wilson and Carter Rowney are hustling and adding energy but there's little to no doubt no that secondary scoring is either injured or banged up and probably not coming through.
This depleted lineup hopes to get through a game, and hopefully reinforcements will be ready soon. All three of the injured players (Hornqvist, Rust, Schultz) all skated at least before practice, so that's somewhat encouraging that at least all are with the team on the road and seemingly relatively close to getting back, compared with the alternatives of not skating at all.
This series has no extra day breaks, it's every other day the whole way. That could be a major storyline if the Pens pick up any further injuries. Hopefully though this patchwork lineup can get the job done and then it will be all up here from here. Game 3 is shaping up to be a battle, on the road and down a few key players. Let's see who can dig deep to make up the difference.