Derick Brassard among those not present at optional Penguins’ morning skate
Derick Brassard did not participate in the morning skate Wednesday in advance of the playoff opener against the Philadelphia Flyers, but that is not necessarily an indication the Penguins forward’s return from a lower-body injury was derailed.
Brassard returned to practice Monday after a near two-week absence because of a lower-body injury. He has not played since suffering the injury March 27 at Detroit but was taking line rushes in his familiar third-line center spot in practice Monday and Tuesday.
Morning skates are optional and among the other players who sat out were regulars Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Brian Dumouolin and Justin Schhultz. In short, missing a morning skate is in no way indicative Brassard will not be present for the 7 p.m. faceoff at PPG Paints Arena.
Coach Sullivan when asked about Brassard’s health: ‘All players will be a game-time decision.’
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 11, 2018
Asked specifically about Brassard’s status, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went full-on hockey playoffs-mode and gave a swift answer: “All players will be game-time decisions.”
Brassard, though, reported no issues in being a full practice participant while centering Phil Kessel and Conor Sheary in practice the prior two days.
Along with spare defenseman Matt Hunwick, forwards Dominik Simon and Josh Jooris were the final skaters on the ice for the morning skate — typically a strong indication they are pegged as healthy scratches. Assuming that’s true, it’s further concrete evidence Brassard will play in Game 1 because Brassard would be one of the 12 remaining forwards.
That said, Simon and Jooris were on the ice late at the end of morning skate, so unless the Penguins are planning on using 11 forwards tonight, safe to bet Brassard is in.
— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) April 11, 2018
Brassard was acquired via trade three days prior to the trade deadline in late February. He has three goals and five assists in 14 games with the Penguins and is a proven postseason performer: 22 goals and 33 assists in 78 games over the past five seasons.
“He’s a very good player,” Sullivan said about Brassard on Wednesday. “One of reasons why (general manager Jim Rutherford) went out and acquired him gives is that much depth down the middle of the ice, he gives that much more balance at both ends of the rink. He’s a very good player for us. We can utilize him in so many situations.”
Brassard has appeared in the playoffs each of the past five seasons, advancing to the Eastern Conference final three times and the Stanley Cup Final once in that span. He faced the Penguins each of the prior four seasons – accumulating nine goals and six assists in 24 postseason games against the Penguins alone.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.