Penguins’ wingers: Replacing Patric Hornqvist a tough task in Game 4
PHILADELPHIA – Patric Hornqvist has established himself as an irreplaceable player for the Penguins, not only as a net-front presence and puck retriever on the power play but as an aggressive agitator.
With Hornqvist day-to-day with an injury and out for Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against the Flyers Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center, the Penguins are hoping their wingers can chip in to cover for his absence.
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“Listen, Horny’s a real good player for us. He’s a unique player for us. He brings a certain skill set to our power play and five-on-five, but we still have very capable guys,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Hornqvist, who scored 49 points and 29 goals, including a team-high 15 power-play goals this season, and has one goal and two assists in the Flyers series. “I believe that our power play still has the ability to be successful in the absence of a player like Horny.
“We’ve got capable guys. We have to make sure that we execute, that we stick to the game plan, that we make good decisions and that we do the little things: we hunt pucks, we retrieve, we get someone in front of the net, we try to take the goalies’ eyes away, we’re willing to shoot the puck in the right areas of the rink.
“As long as we can do that, our power play will be successful.”
Where Jake Guentzel is expected to move up to the first-team power play, rookie Dominik Simon appears to be the choice to play alongside Guentzel and center Sidney Crosby on the top line.
“He’s unbelievable player. So much respect for the guy,” said Simon, who is expected to make his Stanley Cup playoffs debut. “It’s going to be tough, but I’ll do my best to do the work and help my team.”
The Penguins’ wingers are careful about not trying to emulate Hornqvist, whose play in the crease helped him score the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. But, to a man, they believe they can play bigger roles against the Flyers.
“He’s really an important key to this team and our success,” Zach Aston-Reese said. “He’s an agitator and I think opponents kind of hate playing against him, so I think it’s important that everyone try (not) to go outside their role but try to add a little bit of that element to their game.”
Bryan Rust said the key is to “play hard, play gritty, get to the net and get in front of the goalies’ eyes” – things Hornqvist does well – and to “bring that energy and bring that passion that he always brings.”
Added Conor Sheary: “No one is going to try to play like Horny. He’s kind of a unique player that is hard to find in this league. There’s going to be guys playing more minutes and stepping into bigger roles. I think that’s important that those guys embrace that and take that in stride.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review sports columnist. You can contact Kevin by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .