The news has come down on Justin Schultz, and it’s not good. The Pittsburgh Penguins today announced that Schultz underwent surgery to repair his broken left leg, and will be out four months. Schultz suffered the injury against Montreal on Saturday, and will now be out for a good part of the 2018-19 season.
The Penguins have already been dealing with the poor early play of Olli Maatta, and haven’t found a ton of consistency out of any of their defensemen other than Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin. The pressure to perform will be even greater now with Schultz sidelined until at least February, and it means once again players will likely have to line up on their off side. Schultz was one of just two full-time right-handed options for the Penguins, and had also received time on the powerplay. That role may now end up going to Jack Johnson, but the team could also experiment with young Juuso Riikola, who has impressed through two games.
Either way this is a tough break for a defensive unit that has not exactly been the picture of health over the last few years. While Letang is an excellent player, he’s also played in more than 80 games just once in his entire career, and has had several serious injury and health concerns. With him logging more than 26 minutes a night, the Penguins are playing with fire as they try to get back to the postseason. Schultz’ injury puts more pressure on the young options to step up and help Letang and Dumoulin on a nightly basis, or GM Jim Rutherford may have to go out and make another addition.