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Guentzel Update: Will Travel, Apparently No Concussion



The news could be worse involving injured Pittsburgh Penguins top-line left winger Jake Guentzel.

Guentzel did not participate in Friday’s practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, but coach Mike Sullivan said that Guentzel will travel with the team to Columbus, where the Penguins play the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Sullivan said Guentzel is still being evaluated after he left Thursday in the third period of a win over the Los Angeles Kings. Guentzel was bloodied when he took a deflected puck to the right ear area.

Earlier that period, Guentzel took a high hit by the Kings’ Brendan Lemieux, but there is no indication that has a bearing on his injury.

Sullivan described Guentzel as having an upper-body injury. He also said the Penguins distinguish between upper-body injuries and concussions, so the indication is that Guentzel does not have a concussion.

Guentzel might not be considered one of the long-time core players – that designation goes to centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and defenseman Kris Letang – but he’s about as key as it gets after that.

Guentzel, 28, has reached 40 goals twice, including last season, and he has established himself in a productive pairing with Crosby as two-thirds of the top line.

So far this season, Rickard Rakell has been the right winger on that line. Bryan Rust, who has been playing with Malkin, also has spent considerable time on the top line.

“He’s a great player, does a lot of stuff for us. He’s not an easy guy to replace,” Crosby said of Guentzel.

“He just continues to get better. He finds different ways, whether it’s scoring from the net-front, using his shot, using his speed, creating that way. He plays hard every night, and for a guy who’s not the biggest guy he competes really hard and he’s got a knack for finding the back of the net.”

As someone who has dealt with his own injuries, as well as those sustained by prominent teammates, Crosby is philosophical about possibly playing without Guentzel.

“When you get injuries, you have to find ways to make up for the guys that you lose and what they bring, so I think we’ll try to do that collectively,” he said.

Judging by practice Friday, it appears that Danton Heinen will replace Guentzel on the top line for now.

Heinen has moved around the lineup since joining the Penguins before last season and re-signing over the summer, but he has very little experience playing with Crosby.

If he lines up with Crosby and Rakell, Heinen said, “They’re great players, high skilled guys. They play the game at a real high level. So if it works out that way, it will be a lot of fun.

As for Crosby in particular, Heinen said, “He’s a real elite player. You try and get the puck in his hands. Just complement in any way. … Not overthink it. Play on instincts. If the shot’s there, shoot, don’t pass up a good shot.”

Crosby already has a scouting report on Heinen.

“He’s got a great shot, competes hard, can use his speed wide,” Crosby said. “He plays a pretty straight-line game, pretty simple game. He knows the areas to go to score goals, whether it’s in the slot or around the net. We’ll just try to communicate and talk to each other and generate.”

Heinen has four points in four games, a pace he has not come close to previously.

“I think he’s played really well,” Sullivan said. “He’s another guy that I think has good offensive instincts. I think he could play the type of game that Sid likes to play. He’s good in tight areas. He can play a give-and-go game. He’s good in traffic. He has finishing capabilities.

“So I think Danton had a really good start to our season.”

Dan Kingerski contributed to this report.

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Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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1 month ago

No Kane without Lafferty, 4 Kapanen, Joseph, Lindbergh, and a first

1 month ago

Plus Teddy goes to Chi town.

1 month ago

The way that I read that first sentence, it sounded like there might be worse news coming down the line about Guentzels injury pending test results or something.
Maybe if I had read that news ‘could have been worse’ …but idk.

I just don’t understand why all players don’t use the ear protectors with their helmets. Seems like a unnecessary risk to go without one.