Penguins lose Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang to injury
PHILADELPHIA — In the midst of a phenomenal season, Kris Letang might be the Pittsburgh Penguins’ MVP.
Brian Dumoulin could be one of the most underrated defensemen in the league.
In a development that could prove monumentally detrimental to the team’s playoff hopes, both were injured on the same play in the first period of Saturday night’s NHL Stadium Series game in Philadelphia, a 4-3 Penguins overtime loss to the Flyers.
Dumoulin has a concussion and Letang is being evaluated for an upper-body injury, coach Mike Sullivan said.
“It’s tough. When you lose your top pair of defense, that’s not easy. That’s a tough challenge,” Sullivan said. “But we have capable guys. It’s going to give other guys opportunities. Hopefully we won’t lose either one of them for any length of time.”
Dumoulin was injured when Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds drove a shoulder into his chin on a hit along the boards. He was not penalized on the play.
Simmonds told Philadelphia reporters after the game that the hit was shoulder to shoulder.
The Penguins disagreed.
“It looked like he made contact with his head,” Sidney Crosby said. “It’s tough to see that.”
Letang confronted Simmonds after the hit and was tackled by Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere in the scrum that followed.
Juuso Riikola, a healthy scratch for the past four games, would be the next man up for the Penguins. Zach Trotman would probably be the first call-up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
General manager Jim Rutherford could also look to add defensive depth before Monday’s trade deadline.
If Letang or Dumoulin is out long term, though, it will be a difficult challenge for any replacements to effectively fill their shoes.
“I think the guys who have come in at different points this year have really done a great job of maybe not taking those minutes on their shoulders, but everyone helping each other out and doing that,” Crosby said. “That’s possibly what we’re going to be faced with. There’s not going to be any teams feeling sorry for us. We gotta find a way to overcome that.”
For one night, anyway, the remaining four Penguins defensemen played admirably in the absence of the team’s top pair.
Jack Johnson and Justin Schultz each topped the 30-minute mark in ice time. Schultz scored a second-period goal.
Johnson said fatigue under difficult ice conditions didn’t cause the Penguins to surrender a two-goal lead late.
“It was harder to skate because you didn’t get as much glide, but there’s something about being outdoors,” he said. “Like when you’re playing pond hockey as a kid. You can stay out there all day, it seems.”
Teammates universally lauded Johnson, Schultz, Marcus Pettersson and Chad Ruhwedel for their efforts.
“Those guys played a lot of minutes and played really well,” Crosby said.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .