Here’s the bright side for the Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby has played all 60 games this season, the most for No. 87 since 2009-10.
But while Penguins management and fans would’ve been extremely glad to get that glimpse into the future back in September, I’m guessing they would’ve balked at the sheer amount of man-games lost this season otherwise.
Beyond the raw volume, though, the Penguins have seen key players at every position sit out significant time due to injuries. Presently, defensemen Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (broken hand) are out indefinitely, while winger Pascal Dupuis (knee) is lost until next season and goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) attempts to work his way back into shape.
Evgeni Malkin and James Neal have also missed 11 and 16 games, respectively, with various ailments. Beau Bennett continues to rehab his troublesome broken wrist, further damaging Pittsburgh’s shallow group of forwards.
The blog Springing Malik churns out regular injury reports that attempt to quantify how much certain teams have been limited by injuries to high-impact players. Its CHIP (Cap Hit of Injured Players) metric lists the Penguins as the NHL team with the third-most money squandered by health issues:
According to the above chart, the Pens have had an average of $10.5 million in the press box for each game this season. Only the Red Wings and Lightning have had more big-money contributors out of their lineups.
But salary doesn’t perfectly measure how important a given player is to a team. Springing Malik also ranks all 30 teams by the ice time they’ve had to replace on a per-game basis:
As we can see, the Penguins are by far the most restricted by the time-on-ice measure. They’ve had to replace a remarkable 100 minutes on average, and that number is likely to increase with the tireless legs of Letang and Martin on the scratch list.
Because of the reduced salary cap, 2013-14 was already going to be a difficult year for the Pens’ depth. Now, even as general manager Ray Shero attempts to bolster the team through trades, that will continue to be a major issue because of injuries.
Tonight’s Game: Penguins (40-16-4, 84 points – 1st Metropolitan) at Predators (26-25-10, 62 points – 7th Central) at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena
Faceoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh
Radio: 105.9 The X
Rookie goalie Jeff Zatkoff was first off the ice at Tuesday’s morning skate, so it seems he will get the start in the Penguins’ first game in Nashville since Oct. 21, 2010. On the other side of the ice, Predators star netminder Pekka Rinne is scheduled to make his return from a pesky infected hip.
Penguins winger Chuck Kobasew, who was placed on waivers Monday, skated on the fourth line with Craig Adams and Tanner Glass during the gameday workout. Joe Vitale jumped up to right wing on the third line to take Kobasew’s place.
Pittsburgh hasn’t won in three games (0-2-1), tying its longest such stretch of the season. The Pens topped Nashville 4-1 on Nov. 15 at Consol Energy Center.