Penguins Notebook: Poehling Suffers Setback, Granlund Made Zucker Money
TAMPA, Fla — There is never a shortage of drama or news emanating from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fans are upset over GM Ron Hextall’s trade deadline moves. The team is now looking for a fourth-line center after trading Teddy Blueger. Ryan Poehling suffered a setback in his recovery. And newly acquired Mikael Granlund’s role is TBD.
Now you’re caught up on the coming drama.
Granlund will play Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. He was in Florida with the Nashville Predators and was a full participant at the Penguins’ morning skate.
Coach Mike Sullivan said he’s unsure where Granlund will slot in the Penguins lineup.
“I think it’ll be a little work in progress. What I know is that he’s a real mobile guy and has versatility to his game. He can play all three forward positions,” said Sullivan. “We intend to get him involved in the penalty kill right away, and we will get him involved in one of the power plays as well. We’re just trying to do it in a way where we don’t overload him, so that’ll be a little bit of a feeling out process, but we’re excited to have him.”
For his part, Granlund has played both wings and center. He expressed no preference.
For his part, Jason Zucker joked that Granlund might be responsible for Zucker’s big-money contract.
“He was playing right wing and played with me because we were small. We had different centermen between us, but it seemed he and I were together for a lot of that time,” Zucker said. “And I always love playing with him. He’s a great passer. I always joke that I have him to thank for my contract because I didn’t really do much. I stood there, and he passed the puck.”
Zucker has done pretty well earning himself a new contract with his performance this season, though a bit of help for the Penguins’ bottom six wouldn’t hurt, either. Perhaps Granlund can elevate Jeff Carter or Danton Heinen.
I know you’re not buying it, but that’s the hope.
And for the record, Mikael is pronounced Mikhail.
The Penguins forward, who was playing well before suffering an upper-body injury, suffered a setback in Nashville. He was not on the ice in Tampa.
That essentially takes away the Penguins’ only natural fourth-line center.
“Ryan is continuing to work through his challenges and getting back healthy and in the lineup,” Sullivan said. “But he took a little bit of a step back there in Nashville when we had him on the ice in full capacity. I know it’s been frustrating for him, having to go through this experience for a long time now. We’re hoping we can get him on the other side of it because when he’s a healthy player, he is a very effective player for us.”
It’s irrelevant now, but the NHL recently released the fastest skaters, via mph, clocked in a game this year. Poehling was the NHL’s fastest at 25.5 mph.
The Poehling injury also makes the Penguins’ trade of fourth-line center Teddy Blueger to Vegas for a third-rounder (and to clear salary) just a little awkward.
Drew O’Connor will sub as the Penguins 4C, but don’t expect him there for long. When PHN asked Sullivan about O’Connor in the middle, Sullivan didn’t exactly offer resounding praise or a ringing endorsement. O’Connor has been undeniably good over the past several games flanking Blueger and Josh Archibald and was getting better, but Sullivan obviously doesn’t see him in the middle.
“He’s another guy that has played center and the wing, and we know we can play him (at center),” Sullivan said. “I think our preference is to play him on the wing. And that’s something that we’ll have to feel out moving forward. But based on the guys that we have at our disposal tonight to field the lineup, we felt these are the combinations where we want to start.”
For the Penguins lines and preview, check out Dave Molinari’s Penguins pregame.