ST. LOUIS — The Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup will feature some new faces when they face St. Louis tonight at 8:08 Eastern at Enterprise Center.
Defenseman Ryan Shea will appear in an NHL game for the first time in his three-plus year career and forward Radim Zohorna will make his 2023-24 Penguins debut.
Shea will replace P.O Joseph, who will be a healthy scratch, and Zohorna will take the lineup spot previously filled by Jansen Harkins, who cleared waivers and was assigned to the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre Friday.
Coach Mike Sullivan said defenseman Kris Letang and forward Noel Acciari, both of whom returned to practice Friday after sitting out Thursday’s workout, will play tonight.
Zohorna, who was one of eight players to participate in the Penguins’ optional game-day skate Saturday, has appeared in 35 career NHL games, which might be why he said he isn’t particularly nervous about playing against the Blues tonight.
“I feel good,” he said. “It’s nice to be here. My dream every day is to spend it with this group of people.”
Sullivan said inconsistency is the primary reason Zohorna has yet to establish himself as a regular at this level.
“These aren’t easy decisions,” he said. “A lot of times, it boils down to little things and what we’re looking for in certain types of players to fill out a line or what the needs of the team are at any particular time. (Zohorna) … had a really good training camp. He’s deserving of those opportunity.
“He’s got a pretty solid two-way game. He can play the wing. He can play center. We can use him on the power play. He’s done some penalty-killing, as well, so he’s a pretty versatile guy. I think his offensive game is deceptive. He sees the play pretty well. I think he can add an offensive dimension to whatever line we choose to put him on.”
Sullivan declined to say which line that will be tonight.
Joseph, who has partnered with Chad Ruhwedel on the No. 3 pairing, lost his spot to Shea after that tandem had a particularly tough night during a 6-3 loss in Detroit Wednesday.
“P.O and I had a conversation, and he understands,” Sullivan said. “We have a competitive group. Performance matters. … It’s our challenge to help P.O capture his very best game. He’s a really good player for us, and he’ll continue to be a good player for us. … He’s going to control what he can, and we’re going to do our very best, as a coaching staff, to help him capture his game.”
In addition to Zohorna Rickard Rakell, Reilly Smith, Alex Nedeljkovic, John Ludvig, Shea, Ruhwedel and Joseph participated in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ optional skate.