It’s getting so you can’t tell who’s on the ice and who’s in the hospital ward for the Penguins these days. In rapid succession the club lost Beau Bennett (wrist surgery), Tanner Glass (broken hand) and, now, top defenseman Paul Martin (broken tibia). Combined with previous injuries to defensive stalwart Rob Scuderi and forward Chuck Kobasew and the loss of winger Matt D’Agostini—who was claimed on waivers by Buffalo—the Pens’ organizational depth is being sorely tested.
If there’s a silver lining to this decidedly dark cloud, Martin’s absence paves the way for Simon Despres (winner of the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy last season as the Pens’ top rookie) to reestablish himself as a bona fide NHL defender following a disappointing training camp. Bennett’s injury opens the door for Jayson Megna, who dazzled Penguins fans during a six-game cameo with his blazing speed and all-around hustle. Recent call-ups Andrew Ebbett and feisty Zach Sill also figure to be in the mix.
Losing D’Agostini was a case of addition by subtraction. Plain and simple, the 27-year-old winger wasn’t cut out for the third-line role he was asked to fill. For now, the Pens will plug the gap with pint-sized Chris Conner, a favorite of coach Dan Bylsma. Conner is diligent and quick but generally unproductive at the NHL level.
I would’ve preferred to see Harry Zolnierczyk get the call. In addition to displaying a scoring touch at Wilkes Barre (eight goals in 15 games), “Harry Z” isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty. With the scrappy Glass on the shelf, the Penguins need every physical edge they can get.
At any rate, it’ll be interesting to see how the refurbished Pens fare, especially with four of the next six contests coming on the road.