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Penguins notebook: Justin Schultz unlikely to play vs. Islanders

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 3:09 p.m.
The Penguins’ Justin Schultz (4) moves the puck against the Panthers at PPG Arena on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Justin Schultz (4) moves the puck against the Panthers at PPG Arena on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

Justin Schultz probably won't play Thursday night when the Penguins host the Islanders, but coach Mike Sullivan offered no further updates on the defenseman's condition after practice Wednesday afternoon.

Schultz suffered a lower-body injury when he was caught up in a tangle of bodies late in the first period of a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night. Schultz tried to return, playing three shifts in the second period, but eventually shut it down.

Sullivan said Schultz had medical tests done Wednesday morning, but the team was still awaiting the results.

Coming off a 51-point season a year ago, Schultz has found the sledding tougher this year. He missed time with a concussion and has 10 points in 23 games.

Sullivan said he has been pleased with Schultz's performance, adding the drop in points is probably a direct result of a decrease in power-play ice time because of the return of Kris Letang from neck surgery.

“His overall two-way game we've been really pleased with,” Sullivan said. “He's a guy that helps us in so many ways. I think we've grown to be accustomed to his point production from the back end, but we believe he's the same player. He's making the same plays. He's been every bit as effective.”

With Schultz out, Chad Ruhwedel will step into the lineup. Frankie Corrado is the leading candidate to be called up from Wilkes-Barre to act as a seventh defenseman.

Corrado looked good in a three-game NHL stint last month and was not in the lineup when the Baby Pens played at Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night.

Waiver wire

In a potentially related move, the Penguins put center Greg McKegg on waivers Wednesday. If he is not claimed by noon Thursday, he could be sent to Wilkes-Barre.

The Penguins are at the NHL roster limit of 23 players. Waiving McKegg gives them the ability to make a roster move Thursday whether they put Schultz on the injured list or not.

“Kegger's been a hard worker for us. He's played some good minutes,” Sullivan said. “I think it's more about flexibility than anything.”

McKegg, 25, won a competition for a bottom-six job in training camp and was the third-line center on opening night.

He had two goals and two assists in 26 games, averaging a little less than 10 minutes of ice time per game, before falling out of the lineup. He has been a healthy scratch for the last three games.

“To be a solid player at this level, consistency is a big thing,” McKegg said. “You've got to learn to bring it each and every night, and I think that comes with experience and figuring out the league. It's something I'm striving for.”

On the bright side

In the game against the Rangers, heavyweight Ryan Reaves hit a post on a breakaway, had a dangerous shot turned aside by a shaky Ondrej Pavelec glove save and had a redirection attempt go just wide. He's stuck on one goal in 29 games this season after scoring seven last year.

Still, after practice Wednesday, he was trying to look at the bright side.

“I think our line played really well,” Reaves said. “I think it was a step in the right direction.”

Even the memory of the frustrating clang of the post wasn't getting him down.

“Sometimes you gotta hit a couple posts before they go in,” Reaves said.

Early returns

The Penguins have two players among the top five vote-getters in the race for Metropolitan Division captain at the All-Star game. Washington's Alex Ovechkin is leading the balloting. Sidney Crosby is second and Phil Kessel is fourth. Fans can vote at NHL.com through Jan. 1.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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