The Pittsburgh Penguins were without Carl Hagelin when they squared off with the Vancouver Canucks last night – a 3-0 shutout for the Pens – and we now know why. Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed after the game that Hagelin had suffered a lower body injury the previous night -(likely a broken foot), versus the Edmonton Oilers, and the preliminary estimation is that he will be out for a minimum of four weeks. There is nothing on the specifics or extent of the injury just yet, but this timeline already puts Hagelin’s playoff availability in doubt.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, though Hagelin is a good player, he is putting up only replacement-level numbers in 2016-17. Through 61 games, Hagelin has just six goals and sixteen assists for 22 points. Last season, Hagelin scored 27 points for the Penguins, but that was in only 37 regular season games following a January trade from the Anaheim Ducks. Sullivan has somewhat moved away from the “HBK Line”, which helped to fuel the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run last year, but individually Phil Kessell and Nick Bonino are both having strong seasons, having already matched their 2015-16 production. It seems as though Hagelin is the only one who has struggled, but this could make his absence easier to cope with. Veterans Tom Kostopoulos or Kevin Porter may be replacement options, as could first-year pro Thomas Di Pauli, who just recently returned from injury.
The problem in Pittsburgh is not Hagelin’s individual issue, but rather the sheer amount of players who are sidelined right now. Hagelin joins defensemen Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, and Trevor Daley and forwards Patric Hornqvist, Matt Cullen, and Bryan Rust as Penguins that currently have clipped wings. That makes for a total of seven opening day starters who are out of the lineup with injury, with only so many options to replace them. However, the Penguins have been able to deal with the problem so far; they’re 7-3 in their last ten. Yet, in that stretch Pittsburgh has only beaten one team who is currently in playoff position. In their next ten games, they face three such teams: the red-hot Calgary Flames, the Chicago Blackhawks, who they just recently lost to, and the division-rival New York Rangers, so they will truly be tested in the next few weeks.
Perhaps fortunately for Pittsburgh, Hagelin is the latest (and least important) in a recent rash of Metropolitan injuries, with the Rangers losing Henrik Lundqvist and the Columbus Blue Jackets losing Ryan Murray over the past few days, as both teams try to close gap with the Penguins in the division.