Martin's injury tests Penguins' defensive depth
Some have suggested in recent days that the Penguins have too much depth on their blue line.
Hockey purists maintain there is no such thing, and the Penguins are proof.
Defenseman Paul Martin likely will miss the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs because of a broken wrist suffered Thursday against Winnipeg. Earlier in the week, it was revealed that defenseman Kris Letang would miss up to 10 days with a broken toe.
Making the situation more dire, Letang and Martin are regulars on the power play and easily play the most minutes of any Penguins defensemen.
Like they have done under adversity during the Dan Bylsma era, the Penguins are simply shrugging off the latest injury news.
“And this is the kind of game that actually feels even better to win because of what all happened today,” defenseman Douglas Murray said after the Penguins' 2-0 win over the Islanders. “This is the time for guys to pick it up.”
Picking up ice time will be paramount.
Letang is ninth in the NHL in playing time at 25:30 per game, while Martin ranks 11th at 25:22 per game. The next closest defenseman on the Penguins roster is Brooks Orpik, who ranks 47th in the NHL at 22:45 per game.
“With Marty and Tanger out,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said, “No one is going to play 30 minutes. We aren't those kinds of players. We'll just have to do it by committee. We have to work together, that's' all.”
Working together certainly has been a theme for the Penguins' recent defensive work. Earlier in the season, the Penguins ranked in the bottom third of the NHL in goals against.
The Penguins have allowed just nine goals in their past 11 games and rank seventh in the NHL in goals against.
“It's defense by committee for us right now,” said defenseman Mark Eaton, whose presence has provided a lift for the Penguins' defensive core.
With Eaton in the lineup, the Penguins are 12-0 and allow 1.75 goals per game. Without Eaton this season, the Penguins are 16-9 and allow 2.63 goals per game.
“Everyone is forced to step up their game right now,” Eaton said. “No one is going to make up for the 25 minutes that Marty plays every night. It's just on everyone to play well.”
The Penguins can add more than $14 million in prorated salary-cap space before the Wednesday trade deadline, and general manager Ray Shero has not ruled out making more moves even though he acquired Murray to go with wingers Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla last week.
Bylsma indicated that, when Letang returns to the lineup, he will be paired with his old partner, Orpik. Martin and Orpik have formed a shutdown pair for the Penguins, but with Martin out, Orpik figures to see heavy ice time alongside Letang.
Bylsma also gave defenseman Simon Despres a vote of confidence. The rookie could see an expanded role.
“He's more than capable,” Bylsma said. “He's been a very good player. He's a guy that, from a defending standpoint and a physical standpoint, playing down low, he's been very good.”
Despres will get even more of a chance to impress the coaching staff next week.
Everyone on the blue line will have that chance.
“There will be rotating in terms of responsibilities over the next three, four or five games,” Bylsma said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Trade for Winnik gives Penguins competition among bottom six
- Penguins notebook: No discipline for Capitals’ Wilson
- Penguins add scoring depth by dealing for Maple Leafs’ Winnik
- Rossi: Winnik nice, but not enough for Penguins
- Penguins eye move for former center Staal
- Capitals’ duo more productive than Crosby, Malkin
- Penguins GM: Team needs, will keep Martin for Stanley Cup run
- Penguins finally find way to beat Capitals
- Penguins notebook: Ehrhoff returns from head injury
- Penguins notebook: As Pens get healthy, Sill is finding place in lineup
- Crosby fights, Penguins lose to Blue Jackets