Yet another injury problem befell the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday morning, and this one may be the toughest to take yet.
As the team prepared for its evening game against the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., coach Dan Bylsma announced first-line winger Pascal Dupuis will likely miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs with an ACL tear suffered Monday night in Ottawa.
Dupuis, 34, hasn’t missed a game since the 2010-11 season, and even then it was just a one-night absence. It became evident the Penguins expected this injury to be much more than a day-to-day issue when forward Harry Zolnierczyk was recalled early Friday despite being sent down to the AHL earlier in the week.
The injury to Dupuis’ right knee occurred during the first period of Monday’s 5-0 loss. Sidney Crosby and Dupuis led a rush into the Senators’ zone, where Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot went low to deliver a hip check to Crosby’s right leg. The Penguins captain tumbled violently to the ice, knocking over Dupuis in the process. While Crosby returned to the ice after a brief adjournment to the dressing room, Dupuis didn’t play after the hit and walked only with assistance after the game.
ACL tears typically take anywhere from six to 12 months to completely heal. Dupuis will have surgery in early January after allowing the swelling in his knee to subside, so his most feasible target for a comeback would be next year’s training camp. Dupuis just signed a four-year, $15-million contact extension with the Penguins last summer.
Since arriving via trade from Atlanta in February 2008, Dupuis has been a dependable, hard-working cog in Bylsma’s up-tempo system. The 6-foot-1 Quebec native has missed just two total contests in four-plus years, during which he’s become one of the most liked and respected Penguins.
Dupuis has blossomed offensively while skating alongside Crosby and fellow wing Chris Kunitz for most of the past two years, putting up a career-high 59 points in 2011-12 and adding 38 more in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Dupuis’ 20 points in 39 games this season had him below his recent scoring pace, but that’s to be expected for a man who’ll be 35 in April.
The difficult news on Dupuis overshadowed what’s looking to be a reunion of sorts in North Carolina. Defenseman Brooks Orpik (concussion) and forward Tanner Glass (broken hand) were removed from injured reserve and figure to play against the Hurricanes based on whom they worked with in the morning skate.
Orpik participated in drills with Deryk Engelland, who should be in the lineup after serving his five-game suspension for an illegal hit two weeks ago. Evgeni Malkin didn’t take line rushes, so he’s going to miss another game, while Kris Letang skated back in Pittsburgh and will not play until the Pens return home in the middle of next week.
Joe Vitale took Dupuis’ place on Crosby’s right wing, while former Boston College Eagles Rob Scuderi and Brian Dumoulin made up the Penguins’ fourth defense pairing during the workout. Scuderi is working his way back from a broken ankle but will have to wait at least until Sunday at Columbus to suit up.
Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. at PNC Arena between the two Metropolitian Division rivals. The Pens (27-11-1, 55 points) will seek their 13th win in their past 15 games against the seventh-place ‘Canes (14-15-8, 36 points). Carolina is five points behind Toronto for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot as the unofficial second half begins Friday.