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Center depth an area to watch in two Pens games today after Jeff Carter’s injury

It’s a unique Sunday where the Pens will play not once but twice, and after the injury of unknown severity to Jeff Carter, the depth centers come into focus

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins picked up their first injury yesterday, when center Jeff Carter left in the middle of a scrimmage and did not return. After practice was over, coach Mike Sullivan deemed it an upper body injury but had no information beyond that.

With the regular season still 19 days away, the Pens have time in their benefit to err on the side of caution with a veteran like the 38-year old Carter. This could well be a very minor knock that passes without too much issue or long-lasting effect.

But if it’s more serious than that, the double dose of two games today could be that much more important for some of the other depth centers on the team.

And what a weird day it will be, with one group of Penguin players hosting some Columbus Blue Jackets in Pittsburgh at 1pm, followed by another group of Penguins making a trip to Ohio for a 7pm game to meet up with another batch of Blue Jackets.

Sullivan was fairly non-plussed with the whole arrangement, which will see him not be behind the bench for either team and make a trip via car to be able an monitor the two different games in different cities. They’ll have to be booking to make the 180 mile trip in between the games but should be able to make it across I-70 in time.

Logistics aside, the concept is new for Sullivan who said he couldn’t remember taking part in a split-squad hockey preseason game. One could almost feel his piercing eyes and “joking but not really” answer to a question of whose idea it was to set this up with a quick response of, “that’s a good question”.

Across those two games today - with Carter’s status unknown or at least not announced — it will be the centers who are one to watch.

For the matinee game, both Teddy Blueger and Sam Poulin will be participating. As will NHL caliber wingers in Rickard Rakell, Jason Zucker, Kasperi Kapanen and fringe roster candidates in Drew O’Connor, Filip Hallander and Valtteri Puustinen.

Related: See both full lineups for the Penguins in two Sunday preseason games against Columbus

Blueger is a known entity, with nothing to earn or prove should Carter’s injury end up being somewhat significant. In a different case, a day like today is a golden chance for a player like Poulin to show his stuff. The same also potentially O’Connor who has worked as a center in the AHL, should the team opt to want to see more. Looking at the above roster, only Blueger, Poulin and minor league Jonathan Gruden have been regularly playing center in camp and are also dressing in the 1:00pm contest, which is going to mean if it’s not O’Connor then someone else is going to have to play center for at least today.

The Pens are sending the bare minimum of NHL veterans on the road trip for the second game of the day, but Ryan Poehling will be playing, as will wingers Danton Heinen and Josh Archibald. That could be pieces of a possible fourth line for the regular season if Blueger gets pushed up a line due to an injury to a veteran center.

On a very busy day for the Penguins, most of their star players will not be active today. even though their coaching staffs will be stretched for a long day. What they see at the center position could be worth watching the closest.

The Pens play at 1:00...And then again at 7:00. The games will be streamed on the team’s official website and have made it known that both games are available to anyone in US.