The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost six straight games but will get top-pairing defenseman Brian Dumoulin and slick skating rookie defenseman John Marino back in the lineup on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators.
Dumoulin has been out since he suffered a severed leg tendon on Nov. 30 against the St. Louis Blues. Dumoulin tangled with a forechecking forward and has missed almost exactly three months. He is the Penguins top-pair defenseman with Kris Letang and will return to his spot on Tuesday.
“(Dumoulin) is a really good defending defenseman. (Dumoulin and Letang) are both mobile guys who can really skate. “Dumo” is a guy who can get back to pucks quickly,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “(Dumoulin) makes a good outlet pass, which allows (Letang) to be more instinctive with his play.”
Dumoulin has played 23 games this season and has seven points (1g, 6a). He will not only stabilize the top of the Penguins defensive rotation but allow the Penguins to separate Jack Johnson and Letang, which was a pairing born of necessity but didn’t necessarily perform well together.
As much as Sullivan would like to ease Dumoulin back into the lineup, Sullivan doesn’t necessarily feel he has that option.
“In theory, you’d like to ease him back in, but I’m not sure that’s possible in today’s game,” Sullivan said. “These guys are ready to play. They’ve had a handful of practices. They’re in great shape. Our strength and conditioning guys have done a great job making sure they’re ready for this opportunity.”
The Penguins rookie defenseman has been one of the great surprises this season. He was acquired for a conditional sixth-round pick from Edmonton over the summer but has established himself as a blueline regular. In 51 games this season, Marino has 25 points (5g, 20). He assumed second-pair duties during Justin Schultz’s injuries and did not relinquish the spot.
It’s not yet known on which pairing Marino, 22, will skate, either with Jack Johnson or Marcus Pettersson. The defensemen’s returns will mean that Juuso Riikola and Chad Ruhwedel will be healthy scratches.
Also, the Penguins were forced to make forward Anthony Angello an emergency recall as winger Brandon Tanev is sick.