Rob Rossi of The Athletic is reporting that injured Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jeff Petry is back skating. He has not practiced with the team but took to the ice after yesterdays practice in Colorado. The Penguins defense has been decimated by injuries in recent days as Petry, Jan Rutta, Dmitry Kulikov and Marcus Pettersson are all sidelined with various ailments. Things have become so dire for the Penguins that even potential call-ups Ty Smith and Xavier Ouellet are hurt as well.
The timing of these injuries could not be worse for Pittsburgh, they are in a dogfight with the Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have been forced to dive deep into their AHL lineup to find replacements for their injured rearguards and are now using the Taylor Fedun to fill out their roster. Fedun played Monday night against the Ottawa Senators and was fine in a sheltered role, but should the Penguins defense ever get healthy he would likely be the 12th defenseman.
Petry has not had a great first season in Pittsburgh, he has been in and out of the lineup with various injuries throughout the season. When he has played, he has largely been okay, but with a cap hit of $6.25MM the Penguins can’t afford for him to be just okay. The Michigan native has 26 points in 52 games and has been a valuable part of Marcus Pettersson’s development this season, but he has had trouble at times matching the foot speed of the young forwards on some of Pittsburgh’s Eastern Conference rivals.
In other Penguins injury news:
- Bryan Rust left yesterday’s Penguins practice in disgust after taking a Jason Zucker shot off his right hand. Rust returned a short time later and no update was provided on the incident. Pittsburgh will not practice today, which means we likely won’t have any updates until their game this evening with the Colorado Avalanche. Rob Rossi did tweet that Rust’s return to the ice for practice appeared to be a good sign. It has been a difficult season for the 30-year-old forward, he has 38 points in 69 games which is well off his near point a game pace from the three previous seasons. He has appeared visibly frustrated in recent weeks, the most obvious instance being in Monday’s game against Ottawa when his failure to clear the zone on a Senators powerplay led to the game winning goal.
- Rob Rossi of The Athletic is also reporting that Casey DeSmith did not participate in Penguins practice yesterday. While he was not injured, he was apparently forced back to the team’s hotel with an illness. Not much else is known, but it could create another interesting development for the Penguins as they have a back-to-back tonight in Colorado and then in Dallas tomorrow against the Stars. DeSmith stood on his head earlier this season with a 41 save win against the Avalanche and would have presumably started tonight or tomorrow’s game. Should he remain sick it could force the Penguins to use Jarry in both games, which is something they may be hesitant to do given Jarry’s play lately. The Surrey native has struggled in recent weeks having been pulled in four of his previous 11 starts, this has cratered his save percentage which now sits at just .907 for the season. Not ideal for a goaltender who is just over three months away from unrestricted free agency.