Penguins notebook: Patric Hornqvist plays after puck to head
Early in the third period of Saturday night’s game with Toronto, a long Kris Letang stretch pass that was tipped by Maple Leafs winger Leo Komarov jumped up and hit Patric Hornqvist in the head.
The split-second Hornqvist had to recognize the puck was coming right at him made all the difference between a potentially long stay on the sidelines and a short one, he said.
Hornqvist sat out the rest of the third period Saturday, but he played against Colorado on Monday night.
“Lucky I could turn, though, so it didn’t get in my face or my visor or something like that,” Hornqvist said. “I’m just lucky, and I’m glad I’m here today and feeling better.”
In addition to being able to turn his head, Hornqvist said he had an instant to brace himself for impact.
“You tighten up your muscles to get prepared to get hit by a puck instead of just getting hit. I think that’s way worse,” he said.
Hornqvist said he received a clean bill of health when going through concussion protocols Saturday night.
“Everything was fine,” he said. “It was just the pain was a little too much to go back out there.”
Perhaps partially as a result of his fearless style of play, Hornqvist’s head has been a puck magnet in recent seasons.
• Before Game 2 of the 2016 Eastern Conference finals, Hornqvist had to be patched up after taking a puck to the head in warm-ups.
• In Game 4 Stanley Cup Final a few weeks later, he slid to the ice to block a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot with the side of his helmet.
• In November of last season, a Brooks Orpik shot hit him in the head, causing a concussion.
Goalie Matt Murray continues his recovery from a lower-body injury. He didn’t dress Monday night, but he was one of three goalies on the ice for morning skate, and his return for the team’s next game Thursday night against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights remains a possibility.
Tom Kuhnhackl missed his second game in a row with an upper-body injury.
Josh Archibald returned from a two-week conditioning stint with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and was a healthy scratch. He had a goal and two assists in six AHL games.
Dominik Simon played his second consecutive game, starting on the third line with Hornqvist and center Riley Sheahan.
While Simon recorded four assists in his first six career games with the Penguins, coach Mike Sullivan said it’s difficult for a prospect to hop right into the top six in the modern NHL.
“If all you are is an offensive player, it’s very hard to enter this league,” Sullivan said. “If you’re a one-dimensional player, first of all, there aren’t that many of them left in the game, and the ones that are, fill the net. That’s essentially what you’re up against.”
The immediate expectations for Simon, then, are for the 23-year-old Czech winger to play a solid two-way game first and foremost, then hopefully add some sorely needed bottom-six scoring pop when he can.
“If he’s got to play a checking role for a period of time and then has the ability to act on his offensive instincts, it makes our third line that much better,” Sullivan said.
The Penguins reunited the Sid and the Kids Line to start Monday’s game, playing Sidney Crosby with wingers Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary.
“We’d like them to play and be the dynamic line that we’ve seen in the past,” Sullivan said. “They’re capable. They’re three guys that have high hockey IQs. They all have good offensive instincts.”