The Penguins start their return from the All-Star break with, what else but some bad news. The team announced this morning that Evgeni Malkin has been added to the COVID protocol list, and that the team has recalled forwards Michael Chaput and Valtteri Puustinen.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled forwards Michael Chaput and Valtteri Puustinen from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.
Forward Evgeni Malkin has been placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol List.
Puustinen, 22, leads all WBS skaters in his first professional season in North America with 27 points (13G-14A) in 40 games. His 13 goals, 14 assists and four power-play goals all rank second on WBS. The 5-foot-9, 183-pound native of Kuopio, Finland spent the 2020-21 season with HPK of Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, recording 41 points (21G-20A) in 51 games. His 21 goals led all HPK skaters and were tied for eighth in the league, while his 41 points were second-most on HPK. Puustinen, who was selected in the seventh round (203rd overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft, is looking to become the first member of Pittsburgh’s 2019 draft class, and just the fourth player selected after the fourth round that year, to see NHL action.
The taxi squad was a short-term addition that was only established through the All-Star break, so both players are now on the 23-man roster.
Puustinen’s call-up is very intriguing, and it will be interesting to see what opportunity he is given. The Penguins have lost four in a row (0-1-3 record) and over those four games they have only gotten goals from Malkin, Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel or Sidney Crosby. Secondary scoring has been non-existent and Puustinen has a track record of production in Finland and now the AHL.
Malkin’s placement in the COVID protocol means he will likely miss at least two games, tomorrow against Boston and then Thursday in Ottawa. If he is able to clear the protocol, it could be possible for him to return as early as Sunday against the Devils, or perhaps next Tuesday when the Penguins host the Flyers.
For those few games, the Pens will have to find new avenues to generate some goals, and the addition of the small but skilled winger in Puustinen would be a fun introduction to the NHL to see if he can offer some of the goals that have been lacking.