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Penguins Update: Injuries a Blessing in Disguise? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Injuries a Blessing in Disguise?

It’s safe to say the Penguins have endured more than their share of hardship this year. With key performers such as Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi dropping like flies, the black and gold ranked fourth in the NHL with 161 man-games lost to injury as of December 15—a staggering total at this stage of the season.

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While it’s never a good thing for players to suffer injuries, the virtual plague of misfortune may—in a roundabout way—have an upside.

All of the players summoned from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton have acquitted themselves well. Some have been downright terrific. Rangy defenseman Simon Despres has looked right at home logging top-pairing minutes. Highly regarded Brian Dumoulin, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2011-12, was solid in his first two games. Philip Samuelsson—son of Penguins legend Ulf Samuelsson—was cool and steady in his NHL debut.

Up front, Jayson Megna’s been a revelation with his blazing speed and timely scoring. Ditto sparkplug Chris Conner with his non-stop hustle. Imitating announcer Mike Lange’s proverbial bulldozer in a construction yard, Zach Sill’s hit anything that moves. Speedy ex-Flyer Harry Zolnierczyk hasn’t looked the least bit out of place during a pair of cameos. Brian Gibbons and Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle) performed ably when called upon.

Let’s not forget backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who’d surely be stopping pucks for the Baby Pens had veteran Tomas Vokoun not suffered a blood clot in training camp.

Along with gaining valuable NHL experience, the newcomers have instilled a hunger and drive that was lacking from the Penguins’ mix earlier in the season. They just might provide GM Ray Shero with some added flexibility come the trade deadline, too.

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8 Comments

  1. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    December 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Good article Rick! I, too, am liking what I’m seeing and the energy levels are definitely catching, even on my couch! Quite a step up from some of our earlier discussions regarding “the same old Penguins.” You know as well as I that as the first-stringers get healthy these kids will be heading back to Wilkes Barre. That’s just the way that goes. I only hope the energy they brought with them lingers in their absence. That being said, it wouldn’t bother me if Mr. Letang sat out the rest of the season.

  2. Mr. Sensitivity's Gravatar Mr. Sensitivity
    December 19, 2013 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    It is a real pleasure to watch Conner play. He is like Rudy out there. I haven’t enjoyed watching the Pens this much in years. They are an entirely new team on the ice. Fast, tenacious, and full of heart. Some of these kids deserve to stay up when other starters return.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      December 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I agree, Mr. Sensitivity. The kids have brought a fire and hunger to the mix that just wasn’t there before. The best thing is, it’s contagious. Some of the vets seem to have an extra hop in their step, too.

      I must confess to not being a Conner fan initially. It had more to do with feeling that we need a bigger guy on the third line than anything else. But he’s winning me over with his hustle (the Rudy analogy was spot-on).

      I also really like Zach Sill. This kid doesn’t take a backward step from anything or anyone. And the Pens have got to figure a way to keep Despres and Bortuzzo in the defensive rotation.

      • Mr. Sensitivity's Gravatar Mr. Sensitivity
        December 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        When I think of championship teams I think of a good balance of stars, role players, youth, and adversity – all qualities of this team. Honestly, many of my criticisms these past few seasons have involved lack of spark and toughness. This team has all of this and more. I am pleasantly optimistic going forward (knock on wood).

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          December 20, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

          You hit the nail on the head when you stated that championship teams need a blend of players who possess different attributes and strengths.

          An often overlooked attribute is youth. Younger players generally are eager to prove themselves and play with an infectious spark and enthusiasm.

          Remember when Sid and Geno and guys like Max Talbot, Jordan Staal and Colby Armstrong all came up together? They played with so much heart and soul. You just knew they’d eventually win a Cup.

          While the Pens aren’t exactly an old team, their core has been together for quite some time. Frankly, I thought they looked a bit stale earlier this season … like it was the same players who’d been doing the same things together for too long. But now, as you mentioned, they look (and feel) like a brand-new team.

          My fear is, what happens when all the veterans return? Will the kids get squeezed out of the mix?

  3. December 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Not only that, but injuries NOW to our key players will hopefully leave them rehabbed and fresh for later in the season and into the playoffs.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      December 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      REALLY good point, Nick.

  4. December 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Not only that, but injuries NOW to our key players will hopefully leave them rehabbed and fresh for later in the season and into the playoffs.


            

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