The injury specter which has hung over the Pittsburgh Penguins again this season may have struck again. Penguins winger Jason Zucker twisted awkwardly into the boards in the middle of the third period and grimaced in pain. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang didn’t suffer such an immediately obvious injury, but he too left the Penguins bench and didn’t play for most of the final 10 minutes of the Penguins 3-2 OT win over the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.
Zucker suffered a scary injury and laid on the ice for a couple of minutes. He had to be helped off the ice and to the Penguins locker room.
Zucker was losing his footing but clipped Washington defenseman Nick Jensen, which exacerbated his fall.
This season, Jason Zucker has seven points (4g, 3a) in 17 games. He has been Evgeni Malkin’s LW since training camp. Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese elevated to take Zucker’s spot.
Head coach Mike Sullivan did not have an update on Zucker after the game, other than to confirm he was being evaluated.
“He’s a popular guy. He’s a real good person, a great teammate, and totally invested in the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Sullivan said. “Anytime a teammate like that goes down, there’s obvious concern from everybody because we all care about him.
The Pittsbugh Penguins played several games this season without enough healthy left-side defensemen, so Chad Ruhwedel had to play on his off-hand for several games after John Marino had to do the same. However, over the past week, the Penguins had enough healthy defensemen for a balanced blueline with NHL regulars.
That may be in jeopardy again. Sullivan was asked why Letang and P.O. Joseph did not play in the second half of the third period. Sullivan admitted Letang left the bench midway through the third period with an injury.
Letang, 33, assisted on Evgeni Malkin’s first-period goal and scored two goals on Sunday during Sidney Crosby’s 1000th NHL game. The Penguins’ top-pair defenseman averages over 24 minutes per game.
PHN reviewed the third period but could not find a specific instance or noticeable moment in which Letang may have been injured.
Update: Kris Letang returned for overtime. PHN will update Letang’s status as the Penguins provide additional information.