Coach Mike Sullivan delivered updates on the two defensemen who got hurt on Tuesday night, and it’s not great news for the Penguins.
Coach Sullivan: "Pettersson will be week-to-week. Riikola is longer-term. Any time our team has faced injuries, it's always an opportunity for someone else to step up and fill the void. We believe we have NHL players here and in the depth that we have."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) January 21, 2021
On the Mike Sullivan injury scale (TM), it starts out on the low end with a maintenance day (aka he’ll be good to play tomorrow) then steps up to a day-to-day classification, followed by week-to-week and then the dreaded “longer term”. Though it’s becoming tougher to keep track of all these injuries, you might recall that fellow defenseman Mike Matheson was also tagged as being out “longer term” from his injury last week.
As for Pettersson, the “week to week” can be variable. Sullivan once classified Patric Hornqvist as week to week and he was back in the lineup six days later. Hornqvist, a crazed Viking warrior, is not the everyday example for this, but it just goes to show that this tag isn’t necessarily a long-term on for Marcus Pettersson. He could be out 1 week, he could be out in the 3-4 week range. We’ll see.
The news is less promising for Riikola, who gets labeled with the more harsh “longer term” status, and almost certainly is in-line to be injured longer than Pettersson, barring any setbacks. It’s a true shame since for Riikola, since would have finally had a chance to play regular minutes in the lineup as a defenseman, and that’s now dashed.
As a result, this certainly opens up the left side of the lineup for 21-year old rookie Pierre-Olivier Joseph to make his NHL debut. Here’s how lines were at practice, with Chad Ruhwedel an excused absence to tend to family matters (his wife recently had a baby).
Here is the Pens' workflow...— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) January 21, 2021
O’Connor, Rodrigues and Sceviour rotated with Blueger.
The interesting point here is that Ruhwedel is expected to be available to play in the game against the Rangers tomorrow night. Ruhwedel played with John Marino last game, leaving open the possibility that Cody Ceci is nothing more than the placeholder here and the third pair could be Joseph and Kevin Czuczman. Czuczman hasn’t played in the NHL since 2013-14.
At this point though, with three injuries on defense, would the Pens still leave Ceci in a suit for a game? Pairings are always subject to alteration, but it’s an interesting possibility.
Also, as of now, neither Joseph nor the Churchman (it’s more fun to spell the name as it’s pronounced) are even officially on the Penguins’ NHL roster, which is sure to change before game time. Both players will need to be promoted to the roster, and both Pettersson and Riikola will have to be placed on the injured reserve list to clear the roster space to add the replacements. These moves will not exceed the upper limit of the NHL salary cap, so there will be no long-term injury reserve considerations available.
Unfortunately for the Pens, it only took four games to be down three left handed defensemen, who all will likely be out of the lineup for at least a bit of time, in a shortened, compressed season.