The Pittsburgh Penguins have a major hole on defense. Justin Schultz was placed on injured reserve on December 7th after suffering a lower-body injury against the New York Rangers.
He had already missed several games due to a concussion suffered in October against the Edmonton Oilers. With the club struggling on defense, his elongated absence has become a cause for concern for the team.
Jason Mackey reports that his absence will last at least a few more weeks, if not longer.
"I wouldn't look for Schultz to be back any earlier than early January," he wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
His absence puts a pin on the Ian Cole trade talk, and makes Jim Rutherford's job more complicated. He publicly alluded to a major shakeup if things don't get better, but it's tricky to make such a move when you have a key player out with injury.
Schultz had a career year last season, putting up a remarkable 51 points. With only 10 in 23 games, there's some concern that it was a one-off. That being said, this has been a difficult year for several players and this season may in fact be the one-off.
Either way, Penguins fans will have to hope Mackey is wrong, or that at the very least, Schultz comes back guns ablazing, reigniting the Pittsburgh blueline.