AFTERMATH: Pens beat Canucks

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In addition to running their winning streak to five games and moving within a point of Washington in the race for the best record in the league, the Penguins got bad news Saturday.

Coach Mike Sullivan said Carl Hagelin will miss a minimum of four weeks with a lower-body injury. The regular season ends four weeks from Sunday.

I would assume the injury came when he took a puck to the foot or ankle while going to the ice to block a shot on a penalty kill in the third period at Winnipeg on Wednesday night. However, Hagelin played 17:32 Friday night in Edmonton, so perhaps it was something else.

I mean, it’s hard to imagine Hagelin played that many minutes on a broken bone in his foot or ankle — which is what you’d assume the injury is with a four-week recovery timetable — but he’s a hockey player. It’s possible.

With Hagelin out, Bryan Rust out until sometime around the end of the regular season with an upper-body injury, Patric Hornqvist out indefinitely with his second concussion of the season and Matt Cullen day to day with a lower-body injury, the Penguins are without four of their top 10 forwards and three of their top six wingers.

That’s a serious test of depth.

How will the Penguins fill their lineup voids? Tonight, they did it with Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel.

They both played about five minutes over their season time on ice averages and were dynamite.

When Guentzel was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins outshot Vancouver 28-13. He had four shots. When Sheary was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins had a 25-12 edge in shot attempts. He had eight shots on goal.

The duo was held off the scoresheet until the waning moments of the third period, largely because Ryan Miller played a great game. When they were finally rewarded with points — Sheary went basically end to end to set up a Guentzel goal, then tacked on an empty netter of his own — it was deserved.

Their centerman didn’t have a bad night either, it’s worth noting. Sidney Crosby had two assists, nine shots on goal and when he was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins outshot Vancouver 27-11.

— With Hagelin a relatively late scratch and considering how difficult it would be to get a player from Wilkes-Barre to Vancouver, the Penguins played with the available bodies on hand — 11 forwards and seven defensemen, with Cameron Gaunce drawing into the lineup. Gaunce only played about 3 minutes, so in essence, they played a man down.

And dominated.

The first 10 or 12 minutes of the first period were pretty even. After that, it was all Penguins. For example, shots were tied 5-5 about 12 minutes in. They were 43-22 in favor of the Penguins the rest of the way. Here, check out the hockeystats.ca chart. It shows what I mean.

chart (16)

— The one downside: The line combination of Kunitz-Malkin-Kessel got pretty well slaughtered in terms of shot stats at even strength. Some tinkering might be required there. Scott Wilson hasn’t exactly thrived in brief top six trials this season, but he had an awesome night in terms of shot attempts tonight (20-6) and has been pretty good lately. Maybe he’s an answer for now.

— Here’s a pretty amazing stat. The Penguins have won five in a row. Crosby and Kessel have combined for zero goals during that stretch. (39 shots, but zero goals).

— If the Penguins need a call-up from Wilkes-Barre at forward before Monday’s game in Calgary, Josh Archibald seems like a good bet. Kevin Porter’s down there too. Don’t forget him.

— About 24 hours after Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant in Edmonton, Matt Murray was perfect in Vancouver. In fact, he shut out the Canucks both times he faced them this season.

It reminds me of what Murray did to Springfield as a rookie in the AHL. He shut them out the first three times he faced them, then stopped 32 of 33 shots the fourth time. He stopped 109 of 110 shots against them that season. Remarkable.

Bye for now,

jb

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