Penguins’ Derick Brassard out with upper-body injury, team says |

Penguins’ Derick Brassard out with upper-body injury, team says

Jonathan Bombulie
Penguins center Derick Brassard, left, is checked by Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy during the third period Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 6-3.

When Derick Brassard didn’t take the ice for pregame warm-ups before the Pittsburgh Penguins faced the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night, the team took the unusual step of announcing the reason for his absence – a day-to-day upper-body injury – via Twitter.

It’s not hard to understand why the extra step was taken. According to multiple reports, general manager Jim Rutherford is scouring the trade market for an upgrade on Brassard in the third-line center spot.

An unexplained scratch would have aroused suspicion – even more than the explained one did.

Regardless, Rutherford was at least somewhat complimentary of Brassard on his bi-weekly radio show Wednesday night on 105.9 FM.

“He hasn’t played as well as we expected and he’s capable, but at the same time, he doesn’t get much power-play time. He’s on the third line playing with different guys at different times,” Rutherford said. “He does have nine goals. He’s on pace for 15, 16 goals. That’s not all bad for a third-line center. Anytime he can score and get a little more confidence, you would think his game would get going a little bit more.”

Matt Cullen started the game in Brassard’s third-line spot between Tanner Pearson and Patric Hornqvist. Blueger centered Riley Sheahan and Garrett Wilson.

Defenseman Justin Schultz, meanwhile, who has been out since Oct. 13, took one of the most important steps on the road to recovery from a broken leg earlier Wednesday, joining his teammates for morning skate, albeit in a red, no-contact jersey.

“The next step, obviously, will be the contact part of the practices,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re going to have some practices coming up over the next week and we’re hopeful that we can eventually get him to graduate into that step, and that’s the last step before he’s in the lineup.”

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Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.