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With Bryan Rust out, now is time for Penguins depth to shine

The Penguins suffered 2 injuries to forwards last game, but luckily still have plenty of depth to overcome the potential loss of one of their better players

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins had an off day on Thursday so we didn’t learn anything too new about injuries suffered by forwards Bryan Rust and Dominik Simon from the game against the Flyers. One not so encouraging sign though is that the Pens dipped into Wilkes-Barre to bring up forward Josh Jooris. From a team release:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled forward Josh Jooris on an emergency basis from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Jooris, 27, was acquired by the Penguins from the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL Trading Deadline in exchange for Greg McKegg. The fourth-year veteran played in 31 NHL games with the Hurricanes earlier this season, producing six points (3G-3A).

The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Jooris has appeared in three games with WBS since his acquisition, scoring once. His lone tally with WBS was a big one, as it came in the final minute of regulation, forcing overtime, on March 4 in Milwaukee.

Overall, the Burlington, Ontario native has played in 204 career NHL games with Calgary, the New York Rangers, Arizona and Carolina. In those contests, Jooris has 23 goals, 32 assists and 55 points.

Jooris originally joined the Calgary organization as an undrafted free agent following a three-year collegiate career at Union College.

As an “emergency loan” presumably one (if not both) Rust and Simon will be out for a while, though more details could be forthcoming as soon as today. Given that Rust’s head was driven into the boards and he left the game with an apparent concussion/head injury, it stands to reason he isn’t going to be playing in the very near future.

That’s a tough break for Pittsburgh since Rust has been so solid recently. He returned from an injury in last January and put up 15 points (6g+9a) in the last 19 games and fit in well either with Sidney Crosby or more recently on the uber-hot Evgeni Malkin line.

However, all hope isn’t lost. By virtue of the Derick Brassard trade the Pens basically had 11 forwards that could be classified as “top-9” caliber players. As a result, for these past couple games guys like Conor Sheary and Riley Sheahan were skating on the 4th line.

That depth will obviously work in the Pens favor with Rust (most likely) out for a bit. Sheary broke a 15 game goal-less drought by scoring two huge goals against the Flyers. Even better, he dd it with Crosby. In springs 2016 and 2017 we saw Sheary play some great hockey on Crosby’s line and this could be the chance for the winger to reclaim that role and salvage an up and down season.

Another interesting aspect to watch will be Sheahan. With the recall of Jooris, the Pens probably could/should employ a more grinding type of 4th line with him, Carter Rowney and Tom Kuhnhackl. This would open up Sheahan to move to left wing and play on a line with Brassard and Phil Kessel. In recent games situationally the Pens have been using Sheahan a little more on the wing, especially late in contests where they might need a little more defense or in case a center gets kicked out of the faceoff circle.

Sheahan’s skill-set isn’t perfectly tailored to the wing, his shot takes too long to get off and he’s not much of a goalscorer, but given the all-around ability he has it does present an interesting style and option to add to a Brassard-Kessel combination that is still in early stages of growth.

The Pens will miss Rust for however long he may be out this time, but they still have the depth to run what should be three very impressive offensively minded lines that should be able to generate scoring chances on any given shift.


Notice something funny about the upcoming schedule?

The Pens only play six times in the next 14 days.Back-to-back, two days off. B-2-B, four days off. B-2-B, one day off....Notice the trend? All back-to-back situations in the times that they do have to play over the next two weeks.

The strength of schedule otherwise isn’t that daunting, Dallas has been pretty strong (though they’re only 4-4-2 in the last 10) and Toronto is 0-2-2 in their last four and missing Auston Matthews pretty badly so Pittsburgh really doesn’t play that tough of an opponent on paper until the 23rd. But the b-2-b’s and travel figures to be a big challenge too, especially when you remember the starting goalie is making the always unknown time return with a concussion.

And how about seeing Montreal on the schedule finally? The season is almost over and the Penguins have not yet even played the Canadiens once in 2017-18! They’ll see each other three times in 17 days from March 15-31 and that will be it. Very odd.

Also, starting March 21st the team gets in a very playoffs-esque “game every other day” rhythm until a final regular season break in the schedule April 2-4. The weather may not make it feel like it, but it’s almost the best time of year for hockey fans with spring and the quest for the Cup.