With the breaking news on Monday that centers Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad will be out “longer term”, the Penguins were only left with ten healthy forwards. That’s not enough for the normal minimum of 12 that traditionally play an NHL game, so it was only normal that the first injury call up from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would be necessary.
The Penguins have recalled forwards Sam Lafferty and Andrew Agozzino on an emergency basis from the @WBSPenguins.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 7, 2019
Forwards Nick Bjugstad and Evgeni Malkin have been placed on injured reserve due to lower-body injuries.
Full details: https://t.co/fLX0ew3iiw pic.twitter.com/tArmmkVOnk
This would mean we could see lines of something like:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Alex Galchenyuk - Jared McCann - Brandon Tanev
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Patric Hornqvist
Dominik Kahun - Andrew Agozzino - Sam Lafferty
That’s a jumping off point to start with, and we’ll see how it goes. Agozzino started the season in Wilkes-Barre as the first line center. The 28-year old is probably the most unknown among Penguins’ fans considering he just signed with Pittsburgh this summer. Agozzino has 21 career NHL games including 11 last year, all with the Colorado Avalanche, so he has a history of being a fringe NHL/AHL caliber player.
Lafferty, a Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania native, was the Pens’ fourth round pick in 2014 and just started his second full professional season. He figures to make his NHL debut tomorrow night.
The team obviously has a big hole in the middle of the lineup now, figuratively and literally with the absence of Malkin.
But we saw McCann step into his spot and score two goals Saturday night. There’s no way around it, McCann is a huge x-factor and has gone from “it would be a nice bonus if he can contribute” type of player to “it’s getting pretty critical he has a good game” status.
Similarly, no Malkin for the power play will give Galchenyuk a bigger role and opportunity as well. And the Pens’ power play is often what they rely on to win hockey games, it’s another crucial aspect.
Teddy Blueger scored six goals and 10 points last year in 28 NHL games. That’s better-than-4th line caliber type of production, and he’ll be given a bigger chance to shine as well.
Then you have the call ups. While no one expects a ton from minor league guys who will be in fourth line roles, a chance to play in the NHL can be fleeting so they’ll need to show reason to stay. It’s exciting because they’re bringing a lot of speed to the team. That doesn’t replace the skill that a Malkin has, but Pittsburgh can lean on this depth and youth to generate what should be a fast and hard-working lineup until the veterans can return.
The Pens were listed by The Athletic to have the deepest group of forwards in the league and while the Malkin injury certainly is a major loss, it could be something they are setup to survive in the short term.