Kasperi Kapanen has been sprung. After clearing up his visa issues in his native Finland, the Pittsburgh Penguins winger is traveling to the United States on Saturday, coach Mike Sullivan said Friday. He faces an eight-day quarantine because of COVID-19 protocol.
That timeline has not been determined.
“Until we get him here and I can have a conversation with Kasperi about his fitness level and his comfort level with how we’re trying to play, it’s hard” to project when Kapanen will join the lineup, Sullivan said.
“I’ll have a lot of (virtual) interaction with him … while he’s going through that quarantine period. We’re going to introduce our team concept to him through that process as well so that he has the ability to make sure he’s learning the Penguins way, Penguins hockey and how we’re trying to play.”
The Penguins are scheduled to open the shortened 2020-21 season Wednesday in Philadelphia. Kapanen will miss the first three games due to quarantine.
Kapanen, acquired in the offseason from Toronto, is slated to skate on the right wing of the top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel – Evan Rodrigues is holding down that spot in training camp – and missing camp means getting no time to develop any chemistry with those two.
The Penguins so far have been clear of problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s not the case with all NHL teams during this truncated training camp.
The Dallas Stars shut down their training facilities Friday for several days and will not open the season as scheduled because six players and two staff members have tested positive for the virus, the NHL announced.
The Columbus Blue Jackets held several players out of practice Friday “out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols,” the team announced.
“We’re going to try to do our best to not let that happen to us, to control what we can,” Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “I think all of us as players and coaches have to be adaptable.”
It sounds as if Dumoulin was echoing what the Penguins have been instructed.
“We had a discussion on Day One of training camp about it,” Sullivan said. “Our players are very well aware of the circumstances. As I say to the players all the time, let’s control the controllables. If we can do as good a job as we can to mitigate the risk, I think that’s the approach that we need to take.
“Having said that, the pandemic is at its height right now in our country. … We just have to react accordingly to what comes our way.”
Rust expects a boost
Winger Bryan Rust is expecting to be a first-time dad in May.
Asked about that Friday, he let out a big grin.
Already established as a solid NHL player who has developed a lot of chemistry with center Evgeni Malkin on the second line, Rust is hoping to find something extra when the playoff start.
“Maybe when the baby is born in May, I’ll get a little more dad strength,” he said.
Finer In the Morning?
It’s well known that Sullivan doesn’t put much stock in the NHL tradition of the morning skate on game days. He might lean on that format a little more this season given the condensed schedule of 56 games in less than four months.
“We’ve sketched out a game plan from the beginning of the season to the end of the season as far as when we practice and when we have days off, when our workouts are,” Sullivan said. “We’ll make adjustments as we go.”
That will incorporate some morning skates that are more than just a few players skating in an optional situation. Sullivan likened it to what the team has done in the playoffs.
“Sometimes we try to give guys rest on the off days and maybe have a morning skate and then play and we gain the benefit of giving our guys an opportunity to recover,” he said. “There might be other circumstances where we practice on the off day and then we don’t have the morning skates so that we still allow time for our players to recover physically.
“That’s something that we’ll work with our players on on a consistent basis. We value their feedback.”
Odds and ends
*Sullivan remained on the ice after the camp scrimmage to work with the taxi squad players during their practice.
*The Penguins worked on shootouts.
*Sullivan said the team will fit in some time working on three-on-three play – the overtime format – as camp progresses.
*There are just two regular practices and an evening scrimmage scheduled before the season starts.