The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a rough season when it came to injuries. After all, both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby missed the beginning of the season while recovering from their surgeries. Since then, it seemed like the team was never fully healthy. Now, with Jason Zucker finally returning to the lineup, the Penguins are one step closer to full strength.
Zucker, 30, has missed an incredible number of games this season. As the team has played 68 games this year, Zucker has only made an appearance in just 31. His latest injury was a battle, to say the least. On Jan. 25, he underwent core muscle surgery. After missing the last 30 games, his presence in the lineup could be a massive morale boost.
Head coach Mike Sullivan is especially excited for Zucker’s return. He says that Zucker’s style of play at both ends of the ice brings a certain level to the Penguins’ game, so much so that his presence makes Pittsburgh that much better of a team. Although Zucker hasn’t been putting up that many points, it’s clear that his hustle and style of play is much needed as the team makes a final push for the playoffs.
His return is not only to the Penguins’ lineup, but also to the state of Minnesota as he’s playing in Pittsburgh’s game Thursday. Despite being traded from the Wild Feb. 10, 2020, this is his first game against his old club. It’ll be interesting to see how Zucker plays against them. He returned from injury once this season, and he scored two goals. Ideally, he’s going to be able to replicate that production.
The Lineup and Future of the Season
The first line of the Penguins will likely never change. The combination of Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust proves to be a formidable foe. Zucker will likely slot in with Malkin and Rickard Rakell. That dynamic will be interesting as both Rakell and Malkin have been creating an incredible amount of offense. If Zucker is able to feed off that energy, then the second line will also be unstoppable.
The third line is going to consist of Jeff Carter, Kasperi Kapanen and Evan Rodrigues. That line, despite technically considered a depth line, could prove to be quite valuable. Joining Teddy Blueger and Brian Boyle on the fourth line is Danton Heinen. Hopefully, Heinen adds another level of scoring to a line that is mainly used as a defensive measure.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are so close to finally being at full health. Brock McGinn is now labelled as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Once he comes back, the team will be fully healthy. This is astonishing as it seems like the Penguins have played the entire season shorthanded and, as of right now, hold strong at No. 6 in the league standings. Imagine what could be once the entire team is back to full health.
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