As a net-front specialist, winger Patric Hornqvist absorbs as much physical punishment as almost any of the Penguins, but for the second time this season, the fiery Swede might miss games because of damage done by a hunk of rubber.
Hornqvist left Saturday’s Game 2 after stepping in front of a John Carlson slapshot late in the first period. As of Sunday morning, his status remained unknown.
“We don’t have any updates on our players,” coach Mike Sullivan said via a conference call. “They’re all going to be evaluated when we get back (to Pittsburgh).”
Hornqvist left Verizon Center in a walking boot after arriving at the arena with plans to infuse Sidney Crosby’s line with a little more “snarl,” as Sullivan often describes it.
Line shuffling ensued after Hornqvist left. Fortunately for the Penguins, if Hornqvist must miss time, a similar type of player, Scott Wilson, waits in the wings. Wilson served as a healthy scratch in Game 2 after Carl Hagelin returned to the lineup.
Sullivan reiterated his view that Crosby’s adaptability makes it fairly easy to adjust the Penguins’ top line without much fretting.
“We’ve had all kinds of people with Sid in my tenure here,” Sullivan said. “One of the first conversations I always have with our guys when we put them with Sid is, ‘Don’t try to change your game. You play your game, and Sid will adjust. Sid will adapt. Because he’s that good.’ ”
Blocking bombs away
Hornqvist’s injury again brought to light the cost and benefit of persistent shot blocking. But Sullivan, as he did earlier this season, stood by the Penguins’ eagerness to get in front of shooters.
The Penguins entered Sunday averaging 22.3 blocks, the most of any team in the playoffs.
“It’s an element of playing team defense,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think our coaching staff is any different than any other coaching staff in the league when it comes to preaching sound defensive strategies. We’re trying to get shot lanes. We’re trying to discourage the puck to getting to our scoring area or our net front as often as we can, and that’s one way that we do it.”
Applause for Olli
Defenseman Olli Maatta’s 143 minutes of ice time through seven playoff games tied Justin Schultz for the team lead.
For Maatta, who missed more than a month late in the season with a hand injury, the workload is welcome. And Sullivan emphasized that, even with his team struggling to string together clean breakouts on a regular basis, he likes Maatta’s contributions in the playoffs and his rapport with Trevor Daley, another defenseman who jumped into playoff hockey after a long injury absence.
“When we’re under pressure in our end zone, I think Olli has the presence of mind to make a subtle play to help us get out of trouble, and that’s what he’s done for us here in the playoffs to this point,” Sullivan said. “Trevor brings some mobility to that pair. I think Trevor brings a veteran presence. I think he has a calming influence on Olli.”