The Pittsburgh Penguins have suffered several injuries of late, and two more names can be added to that list. Bryan Rust and Chad Ruhwedel are both out “longer term” according to head coach Mike Sullivan. Tom Gulitti of NHL.com reports that Ruhwedel left the arena last night with his right arm in a sling, while Rust was on crutches with his left foot in a walking boot.
Pittsburgh went out and added Erik Gudbranson and Chris Wideman at the trade deadline this week to address other injuries on the blue line, but will feel the loss of Rust up front. The hard working forward had been playing an increased role of late and actually ranks third on the team in even-strength goals with 15. He has added two short-handed tallies for a career high of 17 on the year and is an integral part of the Penguins attack. While they obviously still have plenty of firepower with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel leading the way, Rust provided a level of versatility that is lacking elsewhere on the roster.
Losing two more players will hurt the team and it is no guarantee that the Penguins even make the playoffs at this point. With a quarter of the season remaining the team sits in the final wild card spot but just a single point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets who recently loaded up at the deadline. Philadelphia, Buffalo and Florida are all within ten points and chasing down the Penguins, who themselves are trying to leapfrog the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens in the standings. It will be a fight right to the end in the Eastern Conference, and the Pittsburgh depth will surely be tested now.