SUNRISE, Fla — Winger Bryan Rust did not play in the third period of the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday. Coach Mike Sullivan said Rust was being evaluated for an upper-body injury.
Thursday, Rust was absent from the Penguins practice at Amerant Bank Arena.
There remains no official update on Rust’s injury, but Sullivan confirmed he is still being evaluated and will not play Friday when the Penguins visit the Florida Panthers.
Rust has been a spark plug for the Penguins offense. He has 10 goals and 20 points in 22 games and is a plus-13. He’s been a fixture on Sidney Crosby’s right wing this season, with Jake Guentzel on the left.
Rust played with Evgeni Malkin as coaches tried to shake up the lineup. However, by the second period, Rust was back with Crosby. Without Rust in the third period, Sullivan loaded the Penguins’ top line with Malkin, Crosby, and Guentzel.
The Penguins didn’t score until the final minute of the game.
New Penguins Lines
Sullivan is always quick to remind us not to read too much into practice line configurations. However, some players were in new positions.
Drew O’Connor was back with the top line. Jeff Carter was in the middle of the third line.
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Drew O’Connor
Reilly Smith-Evgeni Malkin-Alex Nylander
Lars Eller-Jeff Carter-Vinnie Hinostroza
Jansen Harkins-Joona Koppanen-Radim Zohorna
Penguins Power Play Configuration
The Penguins also added a new member to the top power play in place of Rust. Vinnie Hinsotroza joined PP1 in the low spot that Rust inhabited.
The remainder of the PP1 joined Hinostroza, Erik Karlsson, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.
“For the first couple of years in the NHL, I feel like I played some power play,” Hinostroza said. “Whenever I’m in the AHL, I play power play. I feel very comfortable.”
Hinostroza’s first few years in the NHL were spent with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, though he didn’t debut until 2015-16, the season following their last Stanley Cup victory.
It seems obligatory to include the Penguins’ power play, which has been 0-for-34 since Nov. 11 and is now converting less than 10%.
The Panthers will honor Hornqvist Friday night during the game. The players and even Sullivan universally smiled when asked about Hornqvist.
PHN will prepare their stories, all told with a laugh or a smirk. Perhaps the best one came from Sullivan, who ended his media gathering with a Hornqvist story.
“On the bench, you know, now we have those little holders for the water bottles. Back when (Hornqvist) was on our team, we didn’t — there was just a shelf, and all of the water bottles would be lined up,” Sullivan said before acting out Hornqvist’s water bottle destruction. “When things didn’t go the right way on a particular shift or power play, he’d come back and use the butt end of his stick and just go like this [Sullivan acts out motion] the bottles would fall. They’d go all over the place.”
Sullivan acted out the entire Hornqvist motion multiple times, not trying to hold back his laughter.
“The guys around him, they wouldn’t say anything, they would pick up the bottles and put them back.”
Hornqvist was one of a kind. PHN will have a lot more on Hornqvist, though multiple players mentioned their favorite Hornqvist memory was watching his celebration after he scored the Cup-winning goal in the final minutes against the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.