As the Pittsburgh Penguins march towards the playoffs and an attempt at a third straight Stanley Cup Championship, the injury list is beginning to crowd. The team announced today that Bryan Rust is dealing with a concussion, Dominik Simon is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury, and that Zach Aston-Reese and Matt Murray are “making progress.”
Obviously there are other players on the Penguins whose absence would be more noticeable, but don’t underestimate the impact of losing several depth players at one time. Rust’s importance to the team is sometimes understated, but with 33 points this season and the ability to play in every situation, he’ll be missed over the last few weeks of the season.
Aston-Reese and Simon have taken turns on the top line at times this season, and will force the Penguins to insert Josh Jooris into the lineup should they not be able to make a quick recovery. Riley Sheahan might end up moving to wing to fill out the line with Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard.
Murray of course is a huge wildcard for the Penguins. The young goaltender has won a Stanley Cup in each of his first two postseasons, but has battled injury throughout his short career. This year he has just a .909 save percentage even when healthy, giving way to Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith to try and show that they could be relied upon in a postseason start. The idea of going through the playoffs with two goaltenders with such little experience is probably not what Jim Rutherford was hoping for, but it may be his only option if Murray isn’t able to come back and prove his health. Even if he does return before long, it will be interesting to see if he can ramp up his game once again for the chance to three-peat as Cup champions.