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Tired Penguins Given An Option; Heinen Day To Day

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Danton Heinen goal
Danton Heinen is out day to day.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan is well aware of the numbers. No, not just the 0-1-2 slide his team is on after winning 17 of 19. He keeps a running tally of how busy his team’s schedule is.

“We recognize as a coaching staff the workload that our team is going through,” Sullivan said. “(Sunday) was our seventh game in 11 days, so (Tuesday) will be eight in 13. It’s a heavy workload. We’re trying to manage that workload as best we can.”

So after some video work Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, he gave his players two options — go on the ice Monday for a practice run by the team assistants, or participate Tuesday in the team’s morning skate.

One player not on the ice was winger Danton Heinen. He left during pregame warmups Sunday and was a late scratch for the Penguins’ 4-3 loss to Los Angeles because of an unspecified injury. Sullivan said on Monday that Heinen is day to day. Sullivan said there are also some “bumps and bruises” among his players.

The Penguins had 17 players on the ice for the optional skate, including both goaltenders and the taxi squad players.

“There are some guys that are playing heavy minutes that would prefer to have a day off (Monday) to give their bodies a chance to recover, and there are other guys that maybe play less minutes that need the repetitions on the ice in practice,” Sullivan said. “There are some guys that play heavy minutes that don’t like to skate the morning of a game, that prefer to that off, and so they chose to skate (Monday).”

One player apparently in the third of those categories is defenseman Kris Letang, who practiced Monday despite being a heavy-minutes guy. Letang leads the team and ranks sixth in the NHL with an average of 25:44 of ice time per game.

Letang, known for being in tremendous shape, shrugged off the fatigue angle.

“I think it’s the same for everybody,” he said, although he conceded that “it’s a tough calendar. … We’ve seen lately the coaches try to manage the time on ice for practice or having a day off. We have to grind through it like every other team.”

Those who took the option and did not practice, besides Heinen, were defensemen Chad Ruhwedel, Mike Matheson, Brian Dumoulin and Marcus Pettersson, and forwards Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Carter.

The Penguins have one game left before the All-Star break, and it’s a big one. The Washington Capitals visit PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday. Not only is it a matchup of two clubs vying for first place in the Metropolitan Division, and a matchup of the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, but it’s also a chance for Crosby to reach a major milestone against a rival.

Crosby, who scored Sunday, is two goals away from 500 for his career. He will become the second active player to reach that plateau. The other, of course, is Ovechkin.

Here’s a little treat. Kris Letang talked about what it’s like to set up Crosby for goals:

 

 

 

 

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Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
10 months ago

For years we have needed a couple physical DMEN to clear the crease. When the playoffs start the other team just camps in front of our goalie!