NHL will not discipline Sharks’ Marleau for hit to Rust’s head
Having scored four goals in the last three games — the three biggest games the Penguins have played in years — Bryan Rust has emerged as a cult hero and his team's chief offensive spark.
Now the Penguins might have to get by without him.
Coach Mike Sullivan said Tuesday there was no update on Rust's condition after he took a check to the head from San Jose's Patrick Marleau in the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final the night before. Rust, who skated on his own after the Penguins held an optional practice in Cranberry, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Sullivan said.
The NHL's Department of Player Safety elected not to suspend Marleau, who received a two-minute minor for illegal checking to the head.
“Main points of contact: shoulders, chest. Rust low, off-balance, reaching,” Player Safety tweeted from its account. “Marleau does not ‘pick' the head, elevate or extend. Head contact is with Marleau's back.”
Sidney Crosby said the Penguins locker room wasn't “up in arms” about the lack of a suspension.
“It was a pretty fast play,” Crosby said. “(Marleau is) not known for doing stuff across the line out there.”
Sullivan did not comment on the decision.
“I shared my opinion on that last night,” Sullivan said, referring to his postgame remarks in which he called the play a blind-side hit to the head. “We're just going to play hockey. The league does their job. We're going to do our job. We're just going to play.”
If Rust is out, replacing his speed won't be easy. He's one of the team's most disruptive forces on the forecheck.
“He's been great for us,” Crosby said. “He's provided scoring, speed. He's been strong on pucks. If he's not in, we'll have to make sure everyone steps up.”
Rust's spot on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz could be filled by Matt Cullen or Eric Fehr.
Cullen skated in that spot late in the third period Monday.
“Matt's a versatile guy,” Sullivan said. “We've used him up and down the lineup all year.”
Fehr skated there at times in the Washington Capitals series.
“He has a real good awareness in the ‘D' zone,” Sullivan said. “He's pretty strong on the wall. He brings all of those elements to the line we choose to put him on.”
The promotion of Cullen or Fehr would open a spot on the fourth line, which likely would be filled by Beau Bennett or Oskar Sundqvist.
In his return from a shoulder injury, Bennett played 11 uneventful minutes in Game 5 against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals.
He would be the more offensive option.
“If I'm slotted in there, I've got to be able to make a contribution right away,” Bennett said. “I think I was maybe playing a little too cautious my first time around there.”
Sundqvist played one game in the first-round series against the New York Rangers and one game in the Capitals series. He would be the more defensive option
“I'm pretty comfortable when we don't have the puck,” Sundqvist said. “I'm usually a guy that's on the right side. I think Sully knows that, too.”