The Pittsburgh Penguins may be one of the most boring teams in professional sports. Every day, it’s a new player out of the lineup. It’s new lines and head coach Mike Sullivan adjusting an already stretched roster. Film at 11, man bites dog, death, and taxes.
On Friday, the Penguins lineup got another shuffle when Evan Rodrigues cleared COVID protocol, but Jeff Carter entered. Third-line center Teddy Blueger is in protocol but eligible to exit on Saturday or Sunday before the Penguins game against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
Rodrigues tried to explain how he passed protocol, but eventually, he retreated to, “I passed, that’s all I know.”
COVID will play the most significant role in the Penguins line combinations on Sunday. In the Penguins lines construction, you’ll notice Kasper Bjorkqvist on the fourth line. It’s quite possible the third-year pro from Providence College could be in the lineup if others aren’t cleared.
In 17 games with the WBS Penguins, Bjorkqivst has three points (1-2-3).
Sam Lafferty returned to practice on Friday after missing Thursday due to a non-COVID illness. For whatever it is worth, he and Evgeni Malkin were the first two players on the ice at PPG Paints Arena.
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“…The biggest challenge is just trying to just develop some chemistry with respect to line combinations, defense pairs, power-play groups, penalty kill tandems. We go into the day with a specific game plan, and sometimes lately it seems like we’re thrown curveballs when we get in the morning, and we’ve got to make adjustments accordingly,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “So I think our coaching staff has just grown accustomed to expecting it, and whatever comes our way, we’ll try to make the best decisions…”
Approximately 104 NHL players, a couple of head coaches, and nearly a couple dozen support staff are in the COVID protocol.
Sullivan admitted to having his own thoughts on the NHL’s case-by-case basis for postponing games. He conceded, “at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what I think,” and praised the NHL’s efforts.
For now, the Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams:
Defensemen rotated: Letang, Pettersson, Friedman, Ruhwedel, Riikola.
PP1: Letang, Crosby, Malkin, Rust, Guentzel.
PP2: Pettersson, Riikola (Taxi), Rodrigues, Heinen, Anthony Angello (Taxi)
The Penguins did quite a bit of even-strength work on Friday. The boys rotated in 45-second shifts, with a new faceoff highlighting the line changes.
However, Evgeni Malkin hit a couple of posts, and Evan Rodrigues used his toe-drag move to snap a wicked wrista on current backup goalie Louis Domingue. We tried to catch a goal on video. Instead, the best highlight we got was Drew O’Connor blowing past the Penguins top line and defensemen for a scoring chance.
O’Connor figures to be in the lineup for at least one or more of the Penguins next couple of games as players are absent due to COVID.
Bryan Rust, Party Crasher
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust couldn’t resist a little fun on Friday. As the unlucky media types who are also working on a holiday queued our questions for the emerging cult hero Evan Rodrigues, known as “E-Rod” to this writer and 93-7 the Fan’s Jim Colony, Bryan Rust slipped into the room undetected to pose his hard-hitting, 60 Minutes style expose question.
Exclusive PHN video:
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