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PHN Extra: The Game-Time Decision That Really Wasn’t

To report or not to report. That is the question.



PITTSBURGH — To report or not to report. That is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous tweets … OK, I’ll stop now.

Seriously, there is often a dilemma in this business when a ‘scoop’ is within reach. Is it worth the risk to report something about a situation that might change soon? There’s no right or wrong answer, although various outlets and individuals may have their own usual standards for such a thing.

That issue came up in the hours before Penguins-Capitals Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena. At about noon Thursday, Pittsburgh Hockey Now received information from a member of the Penguins organization that indicated the team “expected” Carl Hagelin to play after missing three games with some sort of injury to his face/head.

A fine little piece of information, eh? Especially when buttressed with the fact that Hagelin beat Carter RowneyJosh Jooris and Daniel Sprong off the ice at morning skate Thursday morning, it made a lot of sense. Hagelin was also in a regular jersey for Wednesday’s practice, although as our Shelly Anderson reported, there wasn’t much by way of contact during that optional workout.

We very well might have run with the ‘Hagelin to return’ story, but we had just been on the short end of a similar situation Sunday. PHN was told by multiple people with knowledge of Evgeni Malkin‘s injury situation that he would return to the ice for Game 2 in Washington. We also weren’t the only outlet to hear a similar thing, as it turns out, but the Penguins held Malkin out.

That’ll get your attention … and teach a lesson about the tenuous nature of injury reports. Our source later explained that Malkin woke up sore Sunday morning, so the Penguins gave him another couple of days to recover from a lower-body injury. Things change, but getting it wrong would still be regrettable, especially in a story of this magnitude.

So it was with some relief and some disappointment that we watched Hagelin get the start for Game 4. Relief because it meant that our source wasn’t simply blowing smoke at us. Disappointment because we held back on publishing the story.

These matters of feel are complex to manage, especially in the heat of a playoff run. We’re trying to serve our readers, listeners and viewers by presenting the freshest information and analysis, but he also don’t want to betray your trust, either.

For what it’s worth, we also heard from that same source that Sprong would take warmups Thursday, with the outside chance of jumping into the lineup. Lo and behold, there was Sprong on the ice 40 minutes before faceoff, although he didn’t make his Stanley Cup playoff debut.

There’s no injury drama remaining, at least for the time being. While we are not privy to doctor’s evaluations, sometimes information can still leak out at this time of year. Rest assured that we’ll continue to keep our ears to the ground in the hope that we can provide something no one else in this market has.

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A lifelong hockey addict, Matt has been fortunate enough to make his career in his sport of choice, working in high school, juniors, college and the pros in various multimedia roles. Previous to joining PHN, Matt was a credentialed Penguins/NHL beat reporter from 2016-18, including coverage of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He contributes commentary and analysis here in various forms.

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