The Pittsburgh Penguins had a healthy defense for all of four periods. Rob Scuderi has a broke ankle according to various sources, and will be out for a considerable amount of time. You’ll always hear coaches talking about how an injury is just an opportunity for another player to step up. So who could it be in light of Scuderi’s trip to the IR?
UPDATE: Rob Scuderi has a broken ankle. Will require surgery later this week. No timetable.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 29, 2013
For starters, suddenly two moves look brilliant for the Penguins. The decision to bring Brooks Orpik back to Pittsburgh will be a boon now more than ever. There was some question about whether or not the Pens did the right thing in keeping Olli Maatta. Again, that choice looks outstanding with Scuderi set for surgery and a long rehab stint.
Usually Pittsburgh continues to roll despite injuries. They’ve hit a rough patch recently though, as they’ve begun to feel the extended absence of guys like James Neal. While it’s tough to lose a scoring winger, it’s much harder to deal with losing a top-four defender like Scuderi.
So which Penguin will have the chance to step up their game the most?
Maatta is the clear-cut choice after he made himself more or less uncuttable in the eyes of the coaching staff. He’s averaging just under 15 minutes a game this season, and could stand to eat some of the minutes that Scuderi usually played. Maatta needs to continue to improve defensively, but contributes offensively already.
Don’t look for guys like Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin or Kris Letang to suddenly change their approach with Scuderi out. Instead, keep an eye on both Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland. These guys were both fringe players with Pittsburgh’s blue line healthy. Now they could earn important minutes on the bottom pairing and carve roles out for themselves moving forward.