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Penguins without Jake Guentzel at practice as road trip begins

Los Angeles Kings v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Jake Guentzel is off to a great start again this season, with three goals and five points in the Penguins first four games.

However, after absorbing a bunch of damage up high last night against the Kings, Guentzel was not able to practice today and the Penguins have re-worked their lines for the first time this season as a result. Guentzel was drilled in the head by Brendan Lemieux in the third period, and then returned only to take an accidental slap shot to the ear from teammate Kris Letang, ending Guentzel’s night.

The Pens are about to take off on a five-game road trip, but got one final practice in before the trip begins tomorrow night against the Blue Jackets. Here were the reconfigured lines the team used:

Danton Heinen has been off to a great start with four points in four games and earned a promotion up with Sidney Crosby. This pulls Brock McGinn up to the third line. Teddy Blueger has long been skating with a no contact jersey, and his status remains unknown for tomorrow’s game in Columbus.

If Blueger can’t play, and Guentzel can’t play, Pittsburgh may be forced to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen (with Chad Ruhwedel earning his first game of the season). Due to being tight on the salary cap, they can not afford a replacement call-up, unless Guentzel or Blueger is tagged to the long term injured reserve.

That would require the player to miss 10 games and 24 days, which given Blueger’s day-to-day nature does not feel appropriate. Guentzel’s status remains unknown, but it would be damaging to remove him for the team for the next 10 games if that is not necessary.

So, for now, it may be wait and see for Pittsburgh’s first injury drama of the year. Can Blueger play tomorrow? Or Guentzel? Or will it be Ruhwedel and the atypical number of forward/defensemen? Find out tomorrow night in Columbus!

Update: Mike Sullivan said after practice that Guentzel is still being evaluated for an upper body injury as a result of the Letang shot striking his ear. Guentzel will travel with the team as they leave this afternoon for the road trip but his status for tomorrow’s game remains publicly unannounced for now.