Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Replacing Hornqvist Not Simple Matter

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Replacing Hornqvist Not Simple Matter

Article excerpt

Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Now what?

Although coach Mike Sullivan said Saturday the Penguins don't view this as a long-term issue, playing without their exuberant right wing undoubtedly will have an effect. So let's take a look at what that means.

In the simplest terms, jobs and increased roles are available, especially with Conor Sheary on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

"When players go down, it's never an easy thing," Sullivan said after practice Monday at PPG Paints Arena. "It's hard to replace some of these guys. They're good players. Every team goes through it. It always provides opportunity.

"There's opportunity right now. Some of these guys are going to play a more significant role and get a chance to play in maybe more significant situations."

Some key names to focus on include Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Dominik Simon, Tom Kuhnhackl, Zach Aston-Reese and Daniel Sprong.

With three goals and six points in his past six games, Rust is a lock to keep getting top-nine minutes. He currently is the right winger on Sidney Crosby's line, and that likely won't change.

Simon has been on Crosby's left wing a bunch. He mostly has been solid there, although Sullivan gave Aston-Reese a look there Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils. Expect Simon to regain that spot Tuesday.

Guentzel serves as kind of an X-factor. The third line of him, Riley Sheahan and Phil Kessel has actually been pretty solid lately, so Sullivan might not want to screw with it. But Guentzel is versatile and could move to the right side, if need be.

Sprong is the interesting one. He's in the minors, despite scoring his 20th goal over the weekend. The offensive potential is there. At the NHL level, Sprong still needs to produce consistently at both ends of the rink, although he also needs a legitimate chance to do.

Kuhnhackl was promoted to Evgeni Malkin's right wing Saturday at New Jersey - he has had a couple of nice, skilled plays recently, including a backward/between-the-legs feed to Rust - but he's probably not a long-term fit within the top six.

Nevertheless, without Hornqvist, somebody will have to step up and play a key role scoring goals. …

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