Nick Bonino’s status with Penguins questionable for Game 3
A 101-degree fever and almost daily antibiotic and IV treatment for an elbow infection failed to keep Nick Bonino out of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. He sat out of almost every practice during the final round but found a way to dress for all six games against San Jose.
Another rest-heavy routine in the Stanley Cup Final for Bonino might have begun Friday, when the third-line center missed a full-team practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry with a lower-body injury, one likely caused by the P.K. Subban slap shot he blocked during Game 2 on Wednesday.
Coach Mike Sullivan described Bonino as “day-to-day” and did not rule him out for Saturday’s Game 3 against the Nashville Predators.
Bonino arrived in Nashville wearing a walking boot on his left foot and using crutches.
Though he needed help from teammates to get back to the bench after using his left ankle to deny Subban’s short during a penalty kill in the middle of the first period, Bonino joined the Penguins for the start of the second period and finished with 16 minutes and six seconds of ice time.
Sullivan praised Bonino earlier in the series for his ability to adapt to different linemates and all manner of situations.
Friday’s practice indicated the Penguins will turn to another jack-of-all-trades, Carter Rowney, if in need of a center for Game 3.
“At this point, I just answer as a forward,” said Rowney, who served as a center with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton but has primarily flanked Matt Cullen or Bonino since reaching the NHL. “I kind of get thrown around. It seems like every other shift I’ll be a center or a wing. It kind of changes, and that’s something I take pride in, my ability to be versatile and to be put in different situations, different positions who goes out there to do the job.”
Rowney also possesses some familiarity with the penalty kill, so he could receive more short-handed minutes to offset a potential absence of Bonino, whose 2:26 of short-handed ice time per game in the playoffs leads Penguins forwards.
But if Rowney moves to center, a slot in the lineup would open for Carl Hagelin or Tom Kuhnhackl, both of whom have penalty-killing experience.
Jake Guentzel, meanwhile, moved into a center role at Friday’s practice as the Penguins worked on their second power-play unit. The winger, who served as a center for years before he turned pro, rehearsed faceoff plays under the watchful eye of Sullivan. But Guentzel, even in the midst of a dominant rookie playoff run, doubts he will start directing teammates where to go off draws as Sidney Crosby often does.
“I don’t think I can do that just yet,” Guentzel said. “It’s different taking draws. It gets you a little more in the game. It’s definitely fun for sure.”
One area where there’s no obvious replacement in waiting is the dressing room.
One of the Penguins’ more gregarious skaters, Bonino forged bonds with rookies and veterans alike.
“He’s one of those kind of middle guys,” said Conor Sheary, whose stall neighbors Bonino’s. “He’s not an older guy. He’s not a younger guy. He’s just one of those guys that mixes with everyone.”