The Penguins, like many others at the moment, seem to be dealing with a little bit of sickness. And it’s hit the team’s two biggest stars.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both missed Monday’s Penguins practice at PPG Paints Arena due to illness, according to head coach Mike Sullivan. Backup goalie Casey DeSmith did not practice due to being under the weather, as well.
The Penguins, winners of two straight, have been in a full turnaround of late. After beginning the season 4-6-2, including a seven-game losing streak, Pittsburgh has gained at least a point in 11 of its last 13 games.
The team next hosts Columbus Tuesday night. Crosby, Malkin and DeSmith will likely be game-time decisions, depending on their health, according to Sullivan.
“Hopefully they’ll feel better tomorrow,” he said. “Obviously they weren’t feeling well today and we thought it was best to keep them away from the rink. We'll see how they feel in the morning.”
Slightly more seriously, Penguins forward Ryan Poehling did not practice Monday due to a upper-body injury.
Sullivan described his status as day-to-day.
Poehling has scored four goals and assisted three more in 25 games this season. He was able to skate on his own before Monday’s practice.
The Penguins, due to the absences of two centers, plus Poehling, only used three forward lines at practice, with Danton Heinen centering the top line with Jake Guentzel and Rickard Rakell. Teddy Blueger too Malkin’s spot on the second line, between Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust.
It has been a week since Penguins defenseman Kris Letang suffered a second stroke in less than a decade.
But Letang appears to be doing well, despite not being back on the ice with his teammates yet.
The 35-year-old was on the bench during some of Monday’s practice, and did skate on his own earlier in the morning, according to the team.
“He’s in good spirits and continues to make progress,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan feels that having Letang around his teammates is good for him, and the team.
“When he's around and he's part of the social fabric of the locker room and they’re joking with him before and after practice, and he's on the bench during some of the practice, I think just his presence is good for all of us.
“I also think it’s good for Kris to be around the group. I look at it as a win-win on both sides.”
Jarry in a groove
The Penguins’ strong play of late has been fueled by above average goaltending from Tristan Jarry.
Jarry has allowed nine goals in regulation in his last six games played. This comes after he let in nine goals in the two games that preceded those contests.
“Right now, he’s in the zone,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “It’s really good to see. It’s fun playing in front of him obviously. He’s seeing the puck right now, which is great. It’s good for our defensemen when he’s controlling rebounds. It’s been good to see him get on a run here.”
Jarry is 10-3-3 this season. His 2.87 goals against average is a below average mark but one that has steadily come down in recent weeks.
It also seems to be following last year’s track a bit. The Penguins sat at 5-6-4 to start the 2021-22 season, and then ripped off ten straight wins beginning in early December, with Jarry being the catalyst during that stretch.
“Jarry’s been playing really good hockey for us,” defenseman PO Joseph said. “The less scoring chances we give him, the better it is. But he’s always there to protect us at the end of the day.
“Last year, it was a good streak for us at this time. But Jarry’s been stepping up for us since the beginning of the year.”