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Penguins Notebook: Puljujarvi & Puustinen Big Chance; Still No Word on Rust



Pittsburgh Penguins, Jesse Puljujarvi

The Pittsburgh Penguins practice Sunday had a Karelian Hot Pot flavor, with a pair of Finnish players getting bigger opportunities within the lineup. The Penguins’ injury situation and surplus of players created a full practice and fuller locker room Sunday as the team awaits word on winger Bryan Rust. 

A Karelian Hot Pot is the official dish of Finland

Clarification: Puljujarvi is Swedish by birth but played in the Finnish leagues before being drafted.

It’s been four days since Rust left the Penguins’ 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena with an upper-body injury. However, coach Mike Sullivan indicated Rust is still being evaluated but expected news within the next day or two.

It should be noted that newly signed Jesse Puljujarvi, who underwent double hip surgery in the offseason, and his nameplate occupied Rust’s locker stall Sunday.

Sullivan further updated the additional Penguins injuries. Matt Nieto worked out off the ice. Noel Acciari and Rickard Rakell skated before practice with assistant coach Ty Hennes.

Puljujarvi was a full participant in practice.

As a sign of his unfamiliar status, Sullivan had to call for Puljujarvi during practice, “Where’s Jesse? Where’s Jesse,” Sullivan called as the players skated toward the bench.

Coaches rotated Puljujurvi with Drew O’Connor on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guetnzel during 3v2 rush drills.

Puljujarvi is no small winger. The 6-foot-4, 201-pounder has struggled to put up adequate offense in his previous NHL stops, primarily in Edmonton, but also in 17 games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. He has 51 goals and 114 points in 334 NHL games, including none in those 17 games with Carolina.

“There’s an opportunity for him to possibly establish himself with a roster spot here. There’s opportunity,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s our responsibility as a coaching staff and in Kyle (Dubas) and his group to do our best to continue to try to work to improve our team … I think Jesse’s a guy that has played in the league, has had some success and potentially could be a guy that could help us in some capacity.

“So we’ll we’re going to try to immerse him right into the environment and see where it takes us.”

Puljujarvi should get a real shot, especially if Bryan Rust’s extended “evaluation” period means he will be out for a lengthy time. Puljujarvi is a right-handed winger, and the top two Penguins’ right wings, Rust and Rickard Rakell, are out of the lineup.

“Similar to playing against him — a big guy that can skate, strong on pucks, goes in front of the net,” Sidney Crosby described him. “That’s what I remember playing against him; that’s what I saw today.”

Puljujarvi’s free-agent tryout means he cannot play in games but can take part in all other team activities. While coaches and Penguins management get a look at the player, coaches also upgraded Valtteri Puustinen’s opportunity, too.

Puustinen was with the top power play, stationed in the right-wing circle. The winger played his second NHL game Friday against Florida. He acquitted himself well, though he had only one shot on goal–a power play one-timer.

As PHN has noted, Puustinen has a unique one-timer in which he slides his bottom hand up the stick to create a greater whip effect.

Puustinen is still learning English. Over the past couple of years, he’s been unable to conversate with media and often teammates without the use of a translator. He’s picking up the language just as he and the team hope he picks up the NHL game.

“I am so excited to be here. Oh, that’s something — I enjoy it all (including) practice, whatever we’re doing here,” Puustinen said. “This is new for me. This is my dream to play here and play my best.”

P.O Joseph

Joseph was back at practice. He and Chad Ruhwedel were, for the first time, full participants since being placed on the injured list.

Joseph lost his spot in the lineup before being injured. He’s played just five games this season and was to play against Carolina on Nov. 18 vs. Carolina, but he didn’t feel healthy enough to accept the assignment.

“It’s definitely not what I wanted to start my year with. I wanted to come here and help the team as much as possible. And I didn’t feel like I did that in my first couple of games,” said Joseph. “So I think that step back really got me. And then the injury happened. So it was kind of a big step back, but it gave me time to process a lot of things and be able to watch and work on a lot of things, which is good.”

Joseph has one assist, and it may be a struggle to regain his regular spot in the lineup, as Ryan Shea has been steady in the spot. John Ludvig has been solid as the right side of the third pairing as well.