Without a doubt the story for the first month of the season for the Pittsburgh Penguins has been about hanging on through mounting injuries. It started with Bryan Rust getting hurt in the last preseason game. Nick Bjugstad and Evgeni Malkin both went down injured in the second game of the regular season. Alex Galchenyuk was dealing with a nagging groin injury since the preseason and allegedly suffered a setback when bit by a spider. Brian Dumoulin has missed the last four games with a reported cut on his wrist.
In fact, through 12 games, the Pens only have 11 players who have maintained perfect attendance in regular season games. Only three (Kris Letang, Marcus Pettersson, Justin Schultz) are defensemen.
But, Pittsburgh’s maintained throughout all these important injuries, going 7-5-0 early despite the difficulties presented to them.
We give this season reset, because the schedule is about to turn very friendly for the Pens this week. The play at home tomorrow night against the rival Philadelphia Flyers, then are off for a few days before the season’s first matinee game, at home against Edmonton on Saturday at 1 PM.
This is a rare time to cherish for the team. Lots of time to practice, rest and rehab. The Pens have already started on that with an off-day yesterday as they returned from their first extended road trip of the season.
This week of lots of inactivity will be welcomed, but it is rare. Look through the schedule and they don’t have another stretch of a week with only two games until January 19-25 (when their bye week happens).
In short, for a schedule that forced them to play a ton of games early, they’re now catching a break. Some good fortune. Malkin’s status will be the most important of all the missing players, of course, but the more days without games on the schedule is better for the team. An extra week will bring Dumoulin and Galchenyuk that much closer to returning as well.
Rest is a weapon and this week should be a good time for the Pens to regroup and get some of that and some instruction time too.
They can use it — the power play hasn’t scored in over two weeks now (10/13/2019), and is without a goal in the last 11 opportunities. The loss of Malkin has emerged in a big way here, but with Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist at the net, you should still expect better than the 16% (4 for 25) conversion rate that Pittsburgh has since Malkin’s injury. Getting a chance to practice and drill and work this out should be a benefit.
The schedule won’t help here though, believe it or not both of the next two opponents have top-10 penalty kills so far in the young season. That’s surprisingly in performance, given that Philadelphia and Edmonton were 26th and 30th, respectively, on the PK last season.