The Pittsburgh Penguins have so far had a fairly drama-free start to the season, injury-wise in 2023-24 (aside from their top two goalies getting injured at the same time, anyways). Well that’s out the window now, the Pens announced on Tuesday that two key forwards are hurt and a defenseman is out too.
Injury updates from Mike Sullivan:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) November 21, 2023
- Rickard Rakell is longer-term with an upper-body injury.
- Bryan Rust is being evaluated for a lower-body injury.
- Chad Ruhwedel is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
- Matt Nieto is a maintenance day.
I swear Rakell, who has not scored a goal this season, was looking slow to the eye on the ice in the last few games. He didn’t suffer any obvious or major injury on the ice but the “longer term” designation is NOT a positive thing in Sullivan-speak as far as injuries go.
Bryan Rust, who has been scoring a ton of goals, will be worth watching. He was seen on the ice for a few minutes today prior to practice but was absent for the group session. It remains unknown or at least unannounced if Rust will miss any game time, but that would be a huge blow if so.
Ruhwedel was unable to finish last game and is now going to be out for a while. That’s also bad news since P.O. Joseph remains a way’s away from playing with an injury of his own.
Then you get to poor old Matt Nieto, who hasn’t missed any game time but has taken regular absences from practices lately. It doesn’t look like he’s going to miss any action unless things worsen (especially since the roster situation isn’t going to allow it) but Nieto isn’t operating at 100% either these days.
Who’s next for the Penguins?
If the Penguins do have to replace two top-six wingers, Mike Sullivan named Vinnie Hinostroza, Jansen Harkins, and Alex Nylander as the main candidates who will be part of the discussion, as they all have offensive dimensions to their game.— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) November 21, 2023
One piece of good news is that Hinostroza returned to practice on Tuesday, after missing one game with injury. His role and opportunity to play more in the absence of Rakell (and possibly Rust) in the near future is going to be a golden one.
And the door could also be open in the on-again, off-again career of Alex Nylander. Nylander has morphed into one of Wilkes’ top offensive players (5G+3A in 11 games) after a very slow start. It’s been a difficult and bumpy journey with all the stops and starts along the way, but this could be yet another “last best chance” to show he belongs in an NHL lineup.
In all, the tough season of Rakell will drag on as he misses time and delays contributing offense to the Pens. That will be a bitter pill for him and the team to swallow, but ideally they can get him back up to 100% and ready to play sooner than the initial Sullivan diagnosis might indicate. For the time being, the team will have to dig into their depth and figure out how to ice a team that can score goals and defend without some of their regular players.