Penguins notebook: Pouliot recalled, then scratched
ST. LOUIS — In the small picture, there's nothing particularly striking about Derrick Pouliot's call-up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday.
Kris Letang was day to day after suffering an apparent upper-body injury Friday in Tampa. David Warsofsky was out with a concussion suffered Sunday against Carolina.
Letang and Warsofsky are offensive-minded defensemen who can play on the power play, and the Baby Pens player who best fit that description was Pouliot. Add in the fact that Pouliot is on an AHL hot streak, recording a goal, five assists and a plus-8 rating in eight January games, and the decision wasn't a difficult one.
Pouliot got the call, took warm-ups, then was scratched when Letang was OK to play.
“Everything was fine up here for these guys, and we just got back off our road trip, and all of a sudden, I'm here the next day,” Pouliot said. “Things happen quick.”
The more interesting question, of course, is what happens next.
Pouliot could be a short-term injury replacement destined to quickly return to the minors. He also could establish himself as an NHL player and give the Penguins defense corps, maligned at times, a significant boost of creativity and mobility.
Coach Mike Sullivan didn't rule out that possibility.
“We're trying to create an environment here where performance is the dictator, and I'm a strong believer in healthy competition from within,” Sullivan said. “I think it drives players to be at their best. I think a guy like Derrick that's knocking on the door, that's pushing for a roster spot, is good for all our guys that are here.”
For that to happen, Pouliot will have to shed the problems with decision making and defensive-zone play that plagued him in training camp.
“I'm paying attention to my own zone,” Pouliot said. “The offense is there on the power play when I get opportunities to try to create it. I'm trying to play more of a complete game, lots of skating, being hard on guys and really paying attention to my own end.”
Warsofsky suffered one of the season's more unusual injuries Sunday when he landed violently after skating backwards into sliding referee Tim Peel, who had fallen down seconds earlier.
“It was really bizarre,” Sullivan said. “It was really unfortunate. Timmy Peel just lost an edge. As a defenseman, when you're backing up defending the rush, you don't expect that. It was scary because he wasn't able to break his fall in any way because it surprised him the way it did. But he's OK. I think he's going to be fine in time.”
The Penguins didn't have an official morning skate Monday, but injured winger Beau Bennett skated with a few teammates under the watchful eye of team staff.
Sullivan said Bennett, who has been out since Washington's T.J. Oshie drove him into the boards Dec. 14, is close to returning to practice.
“I think it's going to be soon,” Sullivan said. “He had a real good practice today. (Assistant coach Rick Tocchet) put him through a pretty good workout. He responded well to it. We'll see how he responds overnight, and we'll go from there.”
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