The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has been placed on long-term injured reserve retroactive to March 12th. The move comes after Kulikov was knocked out of Sunday’s contest against the New York Rangers with a lower-body injury.
At the time, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told the media that Kulikov would be out on a week-to-week basis, and now the team has effectively confirmed that timeline by placing him on the long-term injured reserve list.
The veteran defenseman’s injury comes at an unfortunate time for Pittsburgh, as the team is looking to build some momentum and secure their spot in the playoffs. Kulikov was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks before the trade deadline and has played largely in a bottom-pairing role alongside offseason acquisition Jan Rutta.
While Kulikov averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in Southern California, he’s played a more limited role in Pittsburgh. As a Penguin, he’s averaging just under 13 minutes of ice time per game, but is logging nearly two of those minutes on the penalty kill.
While he’s a defenseman who is typically at his best when he goes unnoticed on the ice, the experience and stability he would bring to the Penguins’ bottom-pairing and penalty kill is valuable. In his place, Sullivan paired Pierre-Olivier Joseph next to Rutta, and Joseph struggled in over 17 minutes of ice time in the team’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Seeing as starting netminder Tristan Jarry has struggled immensely in recent games, it’s a difficult time for the team to lose such an experienced veteran defenseman like Kulikov.
While Pittsburgh eventually clinching a playoff spot seems like the likeliest outcome at the moment, (they have 78 points and two games in hand on the New York Islanders, who sit two points behind them in the second Wild Card Spot) losing Kulikov will certainly make things a little more difficult.