Archibald Could Bring the ‘Juice’ as Soon as Tuesday
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan called it “juice.” Penguins winger Josh Archibald couldn’t winnow it to one word; he just knows he might be able to bring an element or three that the team has been lacking.
And Archibald could do that as soon as Tuesday, when the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche visit PPG Paints Arena.
Archibald has been out since Dec. 18 – and likely was dealing with his undisclosed injury before that – but seems poised to return.
Archibald isn’t a one-man panacea for what has the Penguins staring hard at the possibility of missing the playoffs. He isn’t expected to crack the top six or rack up a lot of hat tricks.
But he could offer the type of boost in the bottom six that Sullivan, general manager Ron Hextall and a slurry of armchair critics have said the Penguins need, among other things.
That would be a fast, feisty, physical game featuring an effective forecheck – with perhaps a tad of offense thrown in.
Although Archibald has played in just 30 games, he leads the team in hits per 60 minutes at 21.3. He has four goals, six points. He is adept at drawing penalties, but he doesn’t take a ton, with 18 penalty minutes.
He skated on the fourth line Monday at practice with Teddy Blueger and Ryan Poehling at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. He also kills penalties and was paired in that capacity with Poehling at practice Monday. He has been skating or practicing in some capacity for a while.
While not large – he’s listed at 5 feet 10, 176 pounds – Archibald doesn’t shy away from hitting opponents and generally being a pest.
“His competitive advantage as a player is the energy that he brings,” Sullivan said. “He plays the game with a certain reckless abandon. He plays with an edge. He plays on the edge. I think that’s what makes him effective. His foot speed, his physical play, his ability to put our opponents under pressure, forces a lot of turnovers, helps us create momentum. That’s the type of player he is.
“When he’s bringing some juice, that’s contagious.”
Archibald is 30, not some newbie. He has played in 273 NHL games after breaking in with the Penguins (who drafted him in the sixth round in 2011), spending time with Arizona and Edmonton, then returning this season.
He said physically he feels good and will be ready if he’s in the lineup Tuesday. Mentally, too.
“I think that’s part of the mindset,” he said of his style. “Hopefully, if a little spark needs to be had, I can bring a little bit of it.”
One he hopes to provide along with his linemates Tuesday.
“Yeah, I think that’s a big part of my game, being physical and making it hard on other teams’ defensemen,” Archibald said. “Using our speed. I think we have to backpedal a little more than we have been, but I think it will be a good test for us (Tuesday) night.”
All that energy Archibald has, has been pent up for weeks upon weeks.
“Real anxious,” he said. “Obviously, the first couple shifts, just have to get out there and get calmed down. But just bring my speed, tenacity, get in on forechecks, make it hard for the other team, wear them down.”
On second thought, perhaps he shouldn’t focus on being so calm at the onset of his first game back. Adrenalin, after all, is a big part of his juice.