The Penguins were supposed to be playing tonight against the Devils, but they will not be in a game that was postponed. The NHL and NHLPA also agreed to start the Christmas break early, meaning the Pens and Flyers game scheduled for Thursday will also be played at a date to be named later.
Instead, the Pens practiced in Cranberry one final time and will be off until at least Sunday (Dec 26th), coming back a day early to prep for an unknown future — the next scheduled Pens game (Monday Dec 27th in Boston) is already in jeopardy. After that, Pittsburgh was to play in Toronto and Ottawa next week to close out 2021, games which now may or may not happen after border crossings were already suspended by the league earlier this week.
At this point, the situation is as fluid as early in the pandemic, when conditions changed for the worse by the day. Sometimes the hour. Unfortunately, we all had to have that bitter taste one more time as a virus variant swells over the league right now.
On the ice, the Pens played their music over the PA, tried to stay upbeat. One observer said it had the feel of the last day of school. Players made audible shouts when Brian Dumoulin made an out-of-character successful deke through multiple players. The mood was light and the vibes were good.
As far as I can tell, the idea behind the design of this #Pens practice: pic.twitter.com/wwnOL0jxxw— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) December 21, 2021
If you still even have interest in some of the on-ice details, Brian Boyle has upgraded to a regular contact jersey. Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust continue their rehabs in non-contact jerseys but were out there participating.
Jason Zucker again didn’t practice, as he hasn’t for several days now. The impromptu week off will be good for him to recover from a nagging issue.
Rust at work… -DP pic.twitter.com/saUDNmmLTO— AT&T SportsNet™ PIT (@ATTSportsNetPIT) December 21, 2021
Any or all of those players may well be back by the time the Pens are able to play again, whenever that might be.
One place Penguin players won’t be playing is the 2022 Olympics, as it’s believed as perhaps soon as today the NHL and NHLPA will announce a reluctant and disappointed withdrawal. That gives a few weeks of open scheduling in February to make up the spate of recent games cancelled.
But a lot of that news and rumors, like so much else, is outside of the control of the players on the ice getting through one more workout, in what turns out to be a longer holiday break then was scheduled or anticipated even a couple of weeks (or maybe days) ago.
The question now with the unknown answer is just how and when the Penguins will play again, and what things will look like then when they do. For one more day at least, they got their work in and it looked like they had some fun doing it, right up to the end where Malkin scored a goal to end practice and was mobbed by teammates in celebration. Now they’ll wait to see when they get to do that again in a game situation.