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Radim Zohorna waived, Pens to rebalance roster before road trip?

Big forward back on the waiver wire

NHL: DEC 27 Penguins at Islanders Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins lately have had 14 forwards and only six healthy defensemen on their roster. The wheels of change could be coming on that front before the team heads west later this week for a two-game road trip, Radim Zohorna is back on waivers.

After not making the NHL team out of a strong training camp, Zohorna was re-called later in October and played very well early with five points (3G+2A) in his first nine games in the NHL this season. From there, he tapered off and was moved down the lineup towards becoming a healthy scratch for five straight games recently.

Injuries had opened up an opportunity to play the lately, but Zohorna only averaged about six minutes per game in the Penguins’ last two games in his return to the lineup. Zohorna was dressed over Colin White, another recent call-up who had been the team’s excess forward.

Winger Reilly Smith has not yet been officially moved to the IR and remains on the active roster, which if Zohorna leaves it tomorrow would be down to 12 healthy forwards.

Given the upcoming trip, the team might be planning to use cap space freed up by Zohorna’s potential departure to bring up an extra defender. Ryan Shea was swapped last week for White when the team needed an additional forward due to a minor injury that knocked Noel Acciari out of the lineup for a game.

With a few days off this week, the Zohorna move today gives Pittsburgh options to see how they want to shape the bottom part of their lineup for the upcoming trip. Those short-term options would grow further if the team designates Smith for long-term injured reserve and then would have the space for multiple call-ups from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre if they decide to go in that direction.

Prospect Sam Poulin has goals in four straight games for Wilkes and is playing some of his best hockey as a professional lately and could be a name to watch in future moves. The former 2019 first round draft pick has appeared in three career NHL games, all coming last season. If Zohorna is leaving the lineup, that would mean either White or a call-up would be taking the space opening up. The full scope of what the Pens are looking to do with this won’t be known until at least tomorrow, but just because the team is inactive this week hasn’t meant they still aren’t working behind the scenes to tweak the roster.