The Penguins continue their February Florida swing tonight when they take on the Florida Panthers in Sunshine tonight. The Pens were handed two tough losses in their game against Tampa Thursday night. In addition to losing the overall game they also lost John Marino to a broken jaw. Initially announced as merely a flesh wound, it was then announced yesterday that Marino’s jaw was broken in three places and would require surgery. Though it is the jaw and he can wear protective gear, it will depend on the amount of swelling of the face as that could result in diminished vision. Regardless, Marino is most likely certainly out tonight since he is likely chasing Unicorn’s around Pittsburgh high on Percocet and Dilaudid.
With Marino out the Penguins suddenly have a defensive situation. Justin Schultz, who has never actually been that good at defense, has been exposed since his return from injury partially thanks to the questionable decision of playing Chad Ruhwedel on his off-wing. The result has been a typically steady Ruhwedel looking like Derrick Pouliot. With Marino out, Schultz will likely return to his original partner Marcus Pettersson. This pairing was getting applauded in the press as a great shut down pairing, until Marino stepped in and showed what a shutdown pairing looked like. Fortunately, Pettersson should help cover up Schultz’s weakness as he continues getting up to speed. The third pairing will again become Riikola and Ruhwedel, each on their proper sides. With Brian Dumoulin still not skating despite it being 10 weeks post-operation, you have to wonder if GMJR has the Minnesota Wild and Jason Zucker on hold and is instead asking about defenders.
The Panthers have rebounded from their mid-season firing of Gerard Gallant in 2017. Gallant was the last coach to get the Panthers into the playoffs back in 2016. Since then they had one season split between Gerard and an interim and two seasons with Bob Boughner behind the bench before hiring Joel Quenneville this year. With Quenneville, the Panthers are in the playoff chase. In fact, their loss Thursday night dropped them out of the 3rd playoff spot in the Atlantic. They currently trail the Maple Leafs by 1 point, though the Panthers have 2 games in hand.
A team trying to earn points back against a team trying to shift around and cover for yet another injury. The Penguins made no updates regarding their injured players. Neither Brian Dumoulin, Nick Bjugstad, or Dominik Kahun are skating yet. That’s it. That’s the update.
Saturday night hockey. Let’s not lose focus here. The Penguins still have Crosby and Malkin. This team is still 2nd in the Metro and just got beat by a really good Tampa team. I would look for a good rebound game tonight by the Pens. I will definitely be looking for you, bourbon in hand, ass on the couch, ready to enjoy this beautiful sport in these times of chaos. Let’s go.