Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan met with the media today following his team’s off day skate as they prepare for Game 4 of their first round matchup against the rival Philadelphia Flyers. Among those not on the ice this morning were Penguins veterans Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist, leading to speculation that the two key players may not be available for tomorrow’s pivotal Game 4 matchup.
Ready for some good news / bad news, Pens fans?
Pittsburgh Penguins: Coach Sullivan on today's absences: "Tanger was maintenance. Hornqvist will be out for tomorrow night's game with an upper-body injury."
So, Letang is probable, but Hornqvist is out. Not terrible news, but also not ideal. Hornqvist has been a thorn in the side of the Flyers through the series’ first three games, and he won’t be easily replaced. In fact, coach Sullivan admitted as much, saying:
Coach Sullivan: "Hornqvist's not an easy guy to replace. He's a unique player for us. He brings a lot. By committee, we're going to have to pick up the pieces... We believe we have the personnel to do it. We have depth at the forward position."
Amen. While the Penguins have the depth to slot someone like rookie Daniel Sprong into Hornqvist’s spot on the second line alongside Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin, they don’t have anyone else with near the grit and tenacity that provides on a nightly basis. He’ll be missed.
The 31 year old winger has a goal and three points through the first three games of the postseason, following up on his impressive 29 goal, 49 point regular season campaign. The gritty and tenacious forechecker has managed 20+ goals in every full season that he’s played in the NHL. Acquired by the Penguins back in 2014 from the Nashville Predators, Hornqvist has established himself as one of the Penguins’ true leaders on and off the ice. Again, he’ll be missed.
As for Letang, here’s hoping that his “maintenance day” is just that and that he’ll be ready to go come tomorrow night. He took a heavy hit from Flyers captain Claude Giroux in Game 2, but looked no worse for wear during Game 3’s action.