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Penguins Practice: Injury Gives Kapanen Another Chance, but Not in Usual Spot



Pittsburgh Penguins Kasperi Kapanen

Cranberry, Twp — Necessity isn’t the mother of invention for the Pittsburgh Penguins, injury is. Head coach Mike Sullivan put struggling winger Kasperi Kapanen in the press box on Friday night in favor of giving Valtteri Puustinen his first NHL game.

The Penguins beat the Vegas Golden Knights, 5-2. Puustinen was a net-positive on Jeff Carter’s line, which netted a pair of goals. Puustinen earned his first NHL point and was involved in the play. He finished with one shot on goal, three attempts, one hit, and a plus-2.

Not bad work for a seventh-round pick who doesn’t speak English and is in his first professional North American season after a few seasons in the Finnish Liiga.

Carter had two points (1-1-2), three shots on goal, and five attempts.

Kasperi Kapanen was shuffled to the press box after just two points in his last 17 games and a spiraling game that showed only flickers of life.

“Kappy and I had a conversation (Friday morning) and we’ll keep that between him and I. But you know, my hope is that sometimes watching the game from a different vantage point can be productive for a player,” Sullivan said. “By no means because we made this decision does it change how we feel about Kappy as a hockey player, as a person. Kappy is a real good player and he’s a real good person. He’s a good teammate and we’re trying to find ways to help him capture his very best game.”

At the Penguins practice Saturday at UPMC Lemieux Complex, Kapanen was back in the lineup. It appears Kapanen will draw in not because his exile was over, but because injury again struck the Penguins lineup. Winger Brock McGinn left the win over Vegas in the second period. Sullivan termed him as out week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

In McGinn’s absence, Kapanen drew third-line duty, but not in his usual spot. He was on the third-line left wing with Carter and Puustinen.

The Penguins lines largely remained intact, except for Kapanen in for McGinn.

Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:






The defense rotated, but we got a few looks of Mike Matheson with Kris Letang. Brian Dumoulin returned from a non-COVID illness but cycled in with Marcus Pettersson. He wasn’t a full-time participant.

Carolina Awaits:

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in second place. The Carolina Hurricanes lead the Penguins by six points with two games in hand. Should Carolina win, their likely cushion will be an insurmountable eight points, at minimum.

The Penguins host Carolina, again, Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

However, Aston-Reese didn’t know the potential ramifications of a loss. Instead, he focused on the last two losses to Carolina and washing away the bad taste of 0-1-1 against the best in the division.

“I never really thought of it that way (being eight points back). I know personally thinking about it, it’s almost like college when you get to redeem yourselves against the same opponent,” Aston-Reese. “We played them like a week or so ago, it would be nice to improve the record to 1-1-1.

It could be a potential playoff matchup. I think a lot of guys are pissed off about the results we’ve had against them.”

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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8 months ago

Wouldn’t it have been better to sit Zar and Put Kapanen in his place? Then put someone like O’Connor on the Left, after all, Zar and Simon aren’t on the scoresheet enough to contribute to winning when called upon.