The regular season is just a week and a day away for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and after a couple of little bumps in the road it looks as if — dare we say — their injury luck has been straightening up as they get towards the end of training camp.
The biggest and best note was that Jeff Carter was cleared for contact yesterday, and is expected to make his pre-season debut in the Pens’ last remaining game on Friday. Carter was down and out for a little over a week with an undisclosed upper body injury, but appears to be well on pace to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Teddy Blueger has not yet rejoined the team, but is on the ice skating on his own. His injury was described as a day-to-day, which as a time prognosis sounds hopeful for the future.
If you had Filip Lindberg as the team’s first recall for the minors, you win. Lindberg joined the Pens on Monday in Detroit, with Tristan Jarry falling ill and being unable to travel with the team as scheduled. The good news is Jarry was back on the ice in practice on Tuesday and looking good to go.
Two other formerly injured players, Jonathan Gruden and Taylor Fedun, were cut from the NHL camp yesterday as well after they have recovered enough to skate and not officially be “injured” and able to be assigned out of NHL camp.
The Penguins have assigned forward Jonathan Gruden to the @WBSPenguins.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 4, 2022
Twenty-seven players remain on the Penguins’ training camp roster. https://t.co/gdFW6lOQCM
One silver lining of the Carter and Blueger injuries have meant more opportunities for Ryan Poehling and Sam Poulin to have a bigger role at this point in camp then they otherwise would have.
For Poehling, the added time should be a big benefit as he adjusts and adapts to the responsibilities in the Pens’ system that are different from how Montreal plays.
Ryan Poehling just had two shorthanded looks. "I think Ryan is a cerebral player. He's a good penalty killer," Mike Sullivan said. "He's a guy that could potentially help us there." Sully did note PIT operates differently than MTL, so there will be a bit of an adjustment process.— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 4, 2022
Poehling played over 17 minutes in Monday’s pre-season game and drew a lot of praise for his efforts. Sam Poulin is another player who has worked really hard to make a rare pro-level transition from winger into center and has drawn a lot of praise for his work ethic and improvement in the last year.
WBS Head Coach J.D. Forrest: "Sam is a relentless worker. Whatever you want to say about him, he will not get outworked... He's a player that looking at his progression - if he can continue that, he's going to be a scary-good player." https://t.co/ot7uhJV04k— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 4, 2022
It’s never a good thing to be without NHL players, but missing some pre-season won’t be harmful at all to players like Carter and Blueger. Getting more reps and looks at Poehling and Poulin at this time of year isn’t the worst thing in the world when it’s paired with minor injuries to the others.
And, best of all, from Carter and Blueger making strides, to Jarry recovering from illness and all minor leaguers now healthy and sent down, Pittsburgh’s lineup is nearly set.
From the tweet above, the 27 players the Pens still officially list includes Lindberg and Fedun (who must clear waivers). After those two are trimmed away, the team will need to make just two more cuts to reach the 23-player maximum — though the salary cap may dictate they make three more cuts.
Should Blueger recover quickly enough to start the season, Poulin figures to be a cut and the forwards will be set. And then the team will just need to figure out what to do with their defensive logjam, if they can’t sort that out themselves through a trade.
Overall, the best things about training camp are: when it is over, and when it is over and all the players are healthy for the start of the season. The Penguins being the Penguins, they of course didn’t have a smooth journey without a few bumps in the road, but as training camp enters the final stretches they are getting close to accomplishing the goal of getting to the starting line of the regular season and having all their players ready to go.