The Pittsburgh Penguins lineup will be close to full strength on Tuesday night in the Penguins’ fourth game of the season. Head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed on Tuesday morning that winger Kasperi Kapanen would draw into the lineup against the Washington Capitals, one day after his first practice with the team this season.
COVID travel restrictions and red tape held up Kapanen’s immigration from Finland. Despite beginning the process in October, he did not arrive in Pittsburgh until about 10 days ago. He did not clear COVID protocols until last weekend.
“It kind of sucked,” Kapanen said Monday after practicing with the Penguins for the first time at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Sullivan was complimentary of Kapanen’s readiness on Monday and all but signaled the winger would play.
“It’s never easy trying to jump right into a team practice like that,” Sullivan said. “He’s trying to jump on a moving train, but I thought he did a good job.”
Kasperi Kapanen will skate on the Penguins’ top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. The Penguins acquired Kapanen in August, shortly after their postseason loss to the Montreal Canadiens. The team gave up their first-round pick (15th overall) to Toronto and swapped prospects for Kapanen.
Last season, Kapanen had 36 points (13g, 23a) in 69 games.
Pittsburgh Penguins Starting Goalie: Casey DeSmith
For the second straight game, Sullivan will turn to Casey DeSmith in the pipes. DeSmith was the winning goalie on Sunday in the Penguins 4-3 SO win over Washington. DeSmith stopped 20 of 23 and all four shootout attempts.
The Penguins pulled starting goalie Tristan Jarry in the second game of the season against Philadelphia last Friday. DeSmith stopped 12 of 13 shots in relief.
The Penguins also made several ancillary roster moves on Monday evening. Forward Sam Lafferty was demoted to the taxi squad, and defenseman Kevin Czuczman was promoted to the taxi squad from the AHL. The Penguins also demoted Anthony Angello and Frederick Gaudreau to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese, who had offseason left shoulder surgery, skated in the optional morning skate. His time frame for recovery from the August surgery was six months, which put his expected return in mid-February. However, Sullivan indicated his presence was a good sign.
“Obviously, his skating is a good sign that he’s closer (to returning),” Sullivan said.
Aston-Reese was statistically one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL last season while skating with center Teddy Blueger and winger Brandon Tanev.
Sullivan could not give a specific time table.