The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are certainly offering us quite the intense second round series, and it seems that it has taken a toll on several players from one camp.
All the attention over the course of the past week in Pittsburgh was focused on the injuries to Evgeni Malkin, Brian Dumoulin, Carl Hagelin and of course Zachary Aston-Reese following the devastating jaw-breaking hit that ended his season. When you consider the fact that the Penguins have been dealing with so many significant injuries, at least publicly, it's easy to overlook the fact that there may be players who remain in the lineup that may be fighting through injuries of their own.
Several pundits are absolutely convinced that the Penguins have at least one more very significant injury on their roster that has not been discussed publicly. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has recently reported that there are a great deal of rumors that suggest that Penguins star forward Phil Kessel is currently playing through an undisclosed injury, one that is believed to be having a significant impact on his performance. Campbell made the reveal after watching Kessel's first few shifts in Game 4 and that seemingly was enough to convince him that there is indeed something wrong with the two time Stanley Cup Champion.
"The prevailing thought in Pittsburgh is that Phil Kessel is playing hurt," said Campbell. "Watching him so far tonight, it certainly looks that way."
While there was no word or no rumors on what exactly Kessel may be dealing with, the chatter got even more intense when Kessel barely played in the third period of the Penguins' 3-1 win over the Caps in Game 4. So much, that Pens head coach Mike Sullivan faced several questions on his top forward this morning after practice, hours before the crucial Game 5 in Washington tonight.
"It was more situational. We were putting combinations out there that would defend our one goal lead," he said of both Kessel and Conor Sheary less active in the last period.
Kessel was however present at the morning skate today, along with several other players getting ready for the fifth contest of the series.
As of now, coach Sullivan did not mention any major changes to his lineup ahead of tonight's game.