Penguins notebook: Brian Dumoulin unfazed despite taking another puck to the head
NHL players are in constant danger of serious injury caused by a puck rising up and hitting them in the head. They just don't think about it.
And, yes, that applies to Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, too.
Struck above the neck by a puck for the second time in a little more than a year, Dumoulin was back on the ice Sunday night against the Boston Bruins, making his return to the lineup five days after a shot off the stick of Philadelphia's Claude Giroux gave him a concussion.
“I was just boxing a guy out and didn't even see it,” Dumoulin said. “When I got hit, it kind of felt like a bell went off in my head. Obviously, you want to take it easy with concussions now and stuff like that. Feeling a lot better now.”
The last time Dumoulin took a puck to the head, on Dec. 27 of last season, he suffered a broken jaw that kept him out about a month after he was hit by a slap shot from New Jersey's Andy Greene.
Still, when he took the ice Sunday night, he did so without trepidation.
“It's not even something I think about, even after I got hit in the face last year with that slap shot,” Dumoulin said. “I didn't see that puck coming either. It's one of those things where you don't really think about it until it happens. Fortunately, it didn't hit me in the face again.”
In addition to Dumoulin's return, Chad Ruhwedel, out since Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, returned to morning skate in a full-contact capacity, though he was scratched for the game against the Bruins.
Even after Frankie Corrado cleared waivers and was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the afternoon, the Penguins were left with eight reasonably healthy defensemen.
That means two things. First, if general manager Jim Rutherford intends to deal from a position of depth to address a position of weakness in coming weeks, he could trade a defenseman for a center or left wing. Second, in the meantime, coach Mike Sullivan will have a difficult decision when choosing which defensemen to scratch.
On Sunday, Ian Cole drew the short straw.
“We're looking for smart, efficient, calculated decisions back there,” Sullivan said. “I think when we play that way, I think we're harder to play against because we don't turn the puck over as much. That's what we're asking of all of our defensemen.”
The Penguins started the game with Evgeni Malkin centering Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist on the second line and Phil Kessel playing with Conor Sheary and center Jake Guentzel on the third line.
Sullivan said he ideally would like to keep the Malkin-Kessel combo apart.
“I think we're harder to play against when we have the balance through our lineup,” Sullivan said. “We become a team that is difficult to play against from a matchup standpoint, from a lot of different standpoints.”
It's a move that would have seemed preposterous at the end of last season, when Matt Murray was winning his second consecutive Stanley Cup championship and Tristan Jarry was finishing his apprenticeship in the AHL, but it made perfect sense Sunday.
Jarry started over a healthy and rested Murray against the Bruins.
Jarry was 2-2-0 with a .958 save percentage in his previous five appearances. Murray is 1-3-0 with a .867 save percentage in his last five games.
“We know (Murray is) going to pull his game together and be an important part of our team moving forward,” Sullivan said. “Right now, Tristan's playing extremely well, and we think he's deserving of the start.”