CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa — Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jared McCann seemed surprised by the flare-up of his upper body injury before Game 2. The 24-year-old forward made his playoff debut in Game 1 of the Penguins Round One series against the New York Islanders.
Later in the game, McCann was flattened with a mean cross-check near the net by New York grinder Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck caught McCann flush in the ribs and the Penguins forward was thrown towards the boards. He was able to finish the game and practice the following day. McCann even took the morning skate Friday morning but wasn’t ready to play Friday night.
“It was a last minute thing. I kind of took an awkward hit there. It didn’t feel great but I’m a lot better today and ready to go,” McCann said.
The Penguins inserted rookie Teddy Blueger into the lineup in place of McCann. Blueger skated on the fourth line left wing. Zach Aston-Reese was elevated to the second line with Evgeni Malkin.
This season, McCann caught fire with the Penguins and their fanbase after being acquired with Nick Bjugstad from Florida on Feb. 1. McCann scored more goals in 26 games with the Penguins (11) than he did in 52 games with Florida (8). His speed and tenacity instantly made an impact on the Penguins lineup, even as McCann shuffled lines.
“I really wanted to be out there helping my team,” McCann said. “To not be able to do that, it really sucked.”
McCann did admit he doesn’t expect the injury to linger and he is healing.
The Penguins had to make several adjustments for Game 2. McCann was able to see at least one adjustment he’ll make presuming he plays in Game 3.
“Their forecheck is really hard. We have to do a better job as forwards coming back and helping the D,” McCann said.
The Penguins dropped both games in New York and trail in the best of seven game series 2-0. Game 3 is noon on Sunday at PPG Paints Arena. The hockey adage is–you’re not in trouble until you lose on home ice. But the Penguins are certainly flirting with disaster.
Saturday at the Penguins abbreviated practice, McCann was in front of the net on the second power-play unit and even scored a rebound goal.
Here is McCann’s full locker room scrum: