We have officially reached the moment of the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp in which we have asked Mike Sullivan about all of the players on the roster and a few who aren’t. We’ve reached the stage where words matter far less than actions on the ice, and the results will speak louder than even Sullivan’s booming voice. We’ve officially reached the Juuso Riikola mustache stage of training camp.
The smiling Finnish defenseman, who scored his last NHL goal while playing forward, is a man of few words. His English isn’t so good, but he feels his game is fully adjusted after a few years in North America. By observers including us, there was some question if the Penguins have given him enough ice time at any level to hone his North American game. However, after three years on the continent and 75 NHL games, Riikola feels like he’s entirely adjusted.
“Yeah. I think I need to play better,” Riikola said.
And that’s all he said.
On Monday, head coach Mike Sullivan lamented the bad luck which befell Riikola last season. With significant injuries on the blue line, it was Riikola’s time. But he was hurt shortly after being inserted into the lineup.
“…A real stroke of bad luck last year when we got banged up early in the season in that position. I think Juuso would’ve had a great opportunity to play and play a significant amount of games, and he ended up getting hurt himself,” Sullivan said. “And so, unfortunately, it robbed him of that opportunity. We really like Juuso as a player. He’s a great teammate.”
He also has a mustache which makes quite the fashion statement. Why did he grow it?
“Nothing really,” he smiled. “Something to talk about.”
Ironically, that’s all he said.
Riikola reported that his off-season training regimen was about getting in good shape. In fact, good enough to run a marathon. Could he run a marathon?
“No. Now you guys have something to talk about,” he laughed as he exited stage left.
Yes we do.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Juuso Riikola is a man of few words. Perhaps someday, the opportunity will present itself, and we’ll find out just what the fast skating, gritty defenseman can do with significant NHL time. Perhaps his play will do the talking…because he probably won’t.