The Pittsburgh Penguins (8-5-1, 17 points) could be without shutdown defenseman Brian Dumoulin Monday night against the Boston Bruins (10-1-2, 22 points). Dumoulin was attending to the birth of his child. He also missed practice on Sunday. If the shutdown defenseman is unable to play, Penguins seventh defenseman Juuso Riikola will take his spot in the lineup and based on the pairings at practice Sunday, Riikola would be paired with top defenseman Kris Letang.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan knows that missing his top shutdown defenseman and a top minutes eater against the hottest line in hockey (the Bruins top trio of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak) is not ideal but he’s confident in Riikola.
“Juuso is a very versatile player,” Sullivan said of the Finnish blueliner who has no points in four games played this season. “He’s mobile, he can skate, he can get back to pucks, he has good offensive instincts, he makes a good first pass, he can see the ice pretty well, he can shoot from the offensive blue line. So we like Juuso’s overall two-way game. Regardless of where we put him if we choose to put him in the lineup, he’s a very capable NHL defenseman.”
Pens Will Miss Their ‘Bull In A China Closet’
The Penguins will be without Patric Hornqvist, who suffered a lower-body injury in the 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers Saturday and was placed on injured reserve Sunday. Hornqvist’s five goals and five assists in ten games played will be sorely missed, but as Sullivan pointed out Monday, his energy and ability to get under the collective skin of the opponent will be missed just as much against the Bruins, who have won their last five games.
“(Hornqvist) for us, he’s a unique player for our group,” Sullivan said. “He’s kind of a bull in a china closet. He just wreaks havoc in front of the net, he gets in on the forecheck, he’s good in the battle areas, he might be every goalie’s worst nightmare in the league with the way he goes to the net and makes it hard for goaltenders with their sight lines and their motion and their movement, just at the top of the crease. That’s what he brings to our team.
He’s certainly a guy that I know makes us a better team when he’s in our lineup. But once again, we’ve been through this before. When guys go down, it provides opportunities for others to step up and play more significant roles. Guys are going to have to step up and fill that void.”
Forward Bryan Rust – who has a goal and two assists – skated on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Evgeni Malkin Sunday at practice and the plan is for him to remain there for the tilt with the Bruins Monday. The hope is that Rust’s blazing speed can complement the dynamic and skilled Galchenyuk and Malkin.
“His speed I think is dangerous,” Sullivan said. “No matter what line he’s on, he helps that line. He’s a great puck pursuit guy, he gets in on the forecheck, he puts defensemen under pressure, he forces turnovers, he’s got decent hockey sense that he can make plays when they do get the puck. And he has a conscientious game. He can play 200 feet. He has the ability to catch the rush if we get caught in the offensive zone. He has the awareness away from the puck that he can play down low in the defensive zone. So he’s a real versatile player. But for me, the biggest thing that (Rust) brings, no matter what line he plays on, is the speed element.”
Murray vs Halak
Matt Murray will get the nod between the pipes for the Penguins. Murray is 7-3-0-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .924 save percentage. He will be opposed by Bruins goalie Jaro Halak, who is 3-1-1 with a 2.59 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Here’s what the Penguins lineup should look like Monday night:
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Dominik Simon
Alex Galchenyuk – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Jared McCann – Nick Bjugstad – Dominik Kahun
Zach Aston-Reese – Teddy Blueger – Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson – Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson – John Marino