Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Todd Reirden makes his living on and around the ice, but the slippery version of that substance on his driveway got him recently. Reirden fell while digging out his car in his driveway during the All-Star break and now is scheduled to have knee surgery on Monday, coach Mike Sullivan said Saturday.
That will take Reirden — who oversees the defense and the power play — off the bench and away from the team for the most part and for some time. That left Sullivan offering an all-too-familiar injury update after practice at the UMPC Lemieux Sports Complex, this time for one of his staff members rather than a player.
Sullivan said Reirden wanted to put off the surgery until after the season, but doctors convinced him it was needed now. Sullivan did not divulge the exact nature of the knee injury.
In the meantime, Penguins player development coach Matt Cullen arrives Monday to help fill in, assistant Mike Vellucci will oversee the defense during games and Sullivan will handle the forwards.
“Todd’s a big part of our coaching staff. He does a lot for our group,” Sullivan said. “We’ll divide and conquer as a coaching staff.”
Reirden was at the practice facility Saturday for pre-practice meetings and game-planning for the next week but, obviously, not on the ice for the actual practice. After his recovery from surgery, he will contribute as best he can until he is able to get back behind the bench and on the ice — the flat, Zamboni-flooded rink ice — for practices.
Sullivan said the Penguins will use technology to keep Reirden as engaged from afar as possible. “He’s still going to do a lot of things behind the scenes even though he’s not going to be visible (publicly).”
Reirden, Sullivan added, is not the sort who will enjoy being away from the team one bit.
“It’s going to be real tough,” Sullivan said. “This is a guy that loves what he does. He brings so much passion to his job. He brings so much energy to the rink every day. He just truly loves being a hockey coach. He loves helping players maximize their potential.
“He’s a really smart hockey man. He challenges me as a hockey coach with thoughts and ideas. … He makes us all better.”