There was a scary moment in the third period of Sunday’s 6-2 win over Washington when Brian Dumoulin was checked into the end boards by Alex Ovechkin, and the Pens defenseman had to be helped off the ice.
And while Dumoulin was absent from Tuesday’s practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, head coach Mike Sullivan said the team doesn't think its blueliner will be out long-term. He skated before practice this morning and will be monitored day-to-day.
“We’ll see how he responds to that,” Sullivan said. “He’s an important part of our team. He’s played really solid hockey for us. He helps us at both ends of the rink. He’s an important player for us. Certainly we’re a better team when he’s in the lineup.”
The Pens don’t play again until Thursday when they host New Jersey. Ben Lovejoy, who has missed the last 15 games with an upper-body injury and has been practicing with the team since March 10, will be available if Dumoulin can’t go. But no matter what happens, Lovejoy is understanding of the situation.
“I feel like my injury gets better and better every day,” Lovejoy. “I’m at a point where I could play right now. The team is playing so well it’s difficult to get in the lineup. If I were the coach I would probably make the same decision.
“You never want to mess with something that’s going really well and this is something we’ve worked towards all year. I feel and everybody in the room feels we’re peaking at the right time and playing some of our best hockey. At some point, I will hopefully get back in and hopefully fit in.”
No matter what lineup they dress, Sullivan is confident in every single guy in the Pens' locker room.
“Regardless of who we have available come game-time on Thursday, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, we believe in the guys we have and that includes the guys that maybe aren’t in the lineup every night,” he said.
“We think we have capable guys. Ben has played a lot of solid hockey for us as well, so those are difficult decisions that the coaching staff has to make. We certainly don’t take them lightly. But we’re trying to make the best decisions we can that give this team the best chance to win.”
THREE DAYS OFF
The Pens are coming off of back-to-back dominant performances over their biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and Capitals, over the weekend. They outscored the two teams 10-3 and allowed less than 20 shots in each game.
Overall, the Pens have won six in a row and are playing incredible hockey. And while March is their busiest month of the year with 16 total games, having a three-day break isn’t ideal in terms of momentum. Sullivan said it’s about finding the balance.
“The rest is important for our guys. We’ve played a lot of hockey over the last little while,” Sullivan said. “But from a mindset standpoint, we can’t exhale. We’ve got to make sure that we stay hungry. We recognize how we’re playing, the way we’re playing and the details of how we’re playing in order to get the results that we’ve enjoyed in the last couple of weeks.
"We’ve got to continue to challenge one another to stay on top of our game. That was our message to our guys today. We had a spirited practice today. We’ll try to do the same tomorrow and get right back at it.”
RUSHES AND PAIRS
Cole-Schultz with Pouliot rotating