The Penguins will soon be facing a tough decision with their defense corps, writes Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Derrick Pouliot has been on injured reserve since October 21st with a lower body injury. However, he has been practicing since the middle of November and is nearing a return to the lineup; he recently completed a three game conditioning stint with their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with no setbacks.
At the beginning of the year, the 22 year old found himself routinely as a healthy scratch. He has only played in one game this season, the one he was injured in. That’s hardly an ideal spot for any young blueliner to be in, especially one that was a first round pick and is expected to be a key part of Pittsburgh’s future plans.
Head coach Mike Sullivan acknowledges that Pouliot is nearing a return and that they are working on a game plan that will allow him to see more game action when he’s activated off of injured reserve.
The tough decision moving forward will be who comes out of the lineup. Kris Letang is their top rearguard and won’t be sitting while Trevor Daley isn’t likely to sit either. Ian Cole and Justin Schultz have formed a strong third pairing which leaves Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta, who are third and fourth in ice time per game for Pittsburgh defenders. Both of them take regular turns on the penalty kill, an area that Pouliot doesn’t typically play.
[Related: Penguins Depth Chart]
Suffice it to say, the Penguins are going to be hard pressed to find regular ice time for Pouliot. It’s one thing to give a player a night off here and there but that’s not the type of playing time that is needed to develop a young player. Pouliot admitted that he hasn’t given any thought to the possibility of a trade yet but acknowledges his immediate future may be a bit murky moving forward:
“I’m not too sure (of what the future holds). We’ll have to see where things go down the road here. Trades happen. You never know what could unfold.”
Other news from Pittsburgh:
- The Penguins are in discussions to add a minority owner, notes Dave Molinari, also of the Post-Gazette. Owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux are in talks with Ventas Inc. CEO Debra Cafaro about a $25MM stake in the team. Last year, Burkle and Lemieux noted that they were looking into their options, including selling a small stake or potentially selling the franchise. They will, however, retain the controlling interest in the club if this potential agreement comes to fruition.
- ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun takes a closer look at Pittsburgh’s expansion draft situation. Their biggest concern comes between the pipes where Marc-Andre Fleury has a partial no-move clause (that can be waived) while Matt Murray needs to be protected as well; teams can only protect one goaltender though. Accordingly, LeBrun is among many to expect that Fleury will be traded before then. If that happens, they then would be without a goalie to leave exposed and since all teams must leave at least one goalie unprotected, GM Jim Rutherford would still have a bit of work to do to meet that requirement.