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Penguins Wrap: ZAR & Guentzel COVID Updates, Zohorna Wants a Goal



Pittsburgh Penguins, Radim Zohorna

Give Radim Zohorna credit. He’s easing his way into the English language, and there can be some interpretation necessary when speaking with the big 6-foot-6 Pittsburgh Penguins prospect.

Tuesday night, the Penguins host the Buffalo Sabres at PPG Paints Arena, and it could be one of the last shots Zohorna has to make an impression on head coach Mike Sullivan.

Zohorna didn’t dance around the question of what he wants to show Sullivan.

“…I want to prove my speed, and I just want to score a goal. So just do everything that I can,” he answered simply.

The Pittsburgh Penguins fourth center role–after Sidney Crosby returns to the lineup a couple of weeks into the season–probably comes down to Brian Boyle vs. Zohorna. We’ll dive into this topic more in-depth, but Sullivan seems excited by Zohorna’s potential.

“…he’s going to play with some pretty good players (Tuesday). It’s going to be a great opportunity for him to show what he’s capable of. We think he’s a capable guy. He’s a really intriguing player for us, and we’re just going to try to give him an opportunity in different situations and see how he performs,” Sullivan began.

“You know, we know he’s capable of playing the wing. We played him there last year. He played some good minutes for us. You know, the thing that’s intriguing about Z–for us–is for a guy that’s as big as he is, he’s got really good instincts. He has good hands. He has playmaking ability, strong on the puck. He utilizes his reach really well to protect pucks. It’s hard for defenders to get to it. He can use his frame and his reach to protect pucks, and he makes plays off of it … that’s an intriguing aspect of his game. We’d like to see him evolve here over the next little while…we would prefer just to kind of watch him throughout the course of training camp and reserve judgment until we get more of a body of work.”

Those are some big skills, no pun intended.

COVID Updates:

Sullivan said winger Zach Aston-Reese suffered some symptoms after his positive COVID diagnosis. Aston-Reese tested positive eight days ago and has not rejoined the team. Jake Guentzel tested positive on Sunday.

“Jake has been asymptomatic to this point, so that’s a real positive from our standpoint. Zach went through some symptoms. He’s feeling much better, but that’s part of the reason why Zach’s protocol process has been as long as it is. We’ll see how it goes with Jake, but to this point, Jake’s been asymptomatic, so we’re certainly encouraged by that.”

Power Play Roles, Blue Line

Kasperi Kapanen remained on the point with Kris Letang on PP1. Kapanen took the spot on Sunday with Letang and will continue his tryout to replace Evgeni Malkin at the point.

Sullivan downplayed the chances the coaches could use two defensemen but will do so on PP2. Juuso Riikola and P.O. Joseph took the points on the second power-play unit. Both Joseph and Riikola are left-handed, so that could make an interesting pairing at 5v5 and on the man advantage.

Sullivan said Riikola would play on the right with Joseph on the left.

It won’t be the easiest test for either, but if Riikola does well, he could join the Pittsburgh Penguins competition with Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Freidman, who will also play on Tuesday night.

“Juuso has played the right side for us. I know it’s not his ideal preference, but he is capable. And so he’ll start on the right side. We’ll see how it goes from there…”