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‘Feel for Zuck’: Penguins Injury Bug Bites Zucker, Petry

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Pittsburgh Penguins Jason Zucker
Jason Zucker

An old, familiar but decidedly unwelcome friend has sprung up for Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jason Zucker – the injury bug.

Zucker will be out on a week-to-week basis because of a lower-body injury, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after Zucker missed practice Wednesday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Zucker will not travel with the club for a trip to Florida and Carolina. He left Monday’s game against Dallas briefly, but his return apparently belied the severity of his injury.

Zucker joins defenseman Jeff Petry, who went on LTIR on Tuesday because of an upper-body injury, as the club’s injury contingent.

Sullivan said neither look to require surgery, but both could be out a while.

Zucker has had significant injuries the past few seasons, notably core muscle surgery last January after he gutted through a length of time hindered by the injury, and surgery for a broken leg in December 2019 when he was with Minnesota.

“We feel for ‘Zuck’ because he’s played extremely well for us this year, and he’s finally put a string of games together where he’s been in the lineup for a number of games,” Sullivan said. “It’s been a struggle since he’s been a Penguin just keeping him healthy.”

Zucker, 30, looked to finally be the player the Penguins expected during his healthy stretch. He has six goals, 20 points in 27 games playing on Evgeni Malkin’s left flank on the second line.

“He works so hard, is such a good skater, such a good forechecker that he just makes it so much more difficult for other teams’ defenses,” Bryan Rust, currently the right winger on that line, said. “He puts so much pressure on them, causing turnovers, and then he gets chances or creates plays or create offense, he’s obviously skilled enough to (finish).”

All indications are that Danton Heinen, who has been a healthy scratch frequently lately, will fill in for Zucker. He practiced in Zucker’s spot on the second line Wednesday and on the second power-play unit.

“We know he’s a good player,” Sullivan said of Heinen. “We know he’s going to get in the lineup; we know he’s going to be a big part of this team.

“He has great offensive instincts. He’s a guy that we can plug in in the top six.”

On defense, P.O Joseph could see more playing time with Petry out.

Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson