Penguins' Matt Cullen out with long-term injury
The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without veteran center Matt Cullen on a long-term basis due to a lower-body injury, coach Mike Sullivan said Monday.
Cullen was injured during a 6-4 Penguins loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. He played more than 10 minutes in the game, scoring a goal during a third-period comeback attempt.
Cullen, 42, has two goals and two assists in 18 games since signing on for a second tour of duty with the Penguins in July.
His absence will most likely be felt most on the penalty kill. With Cullen out and Carl Hagelin traded to Los Angeles, the Penguins will be without two of their top four most-used penalty killers this season.
“I think Matt’s quietly played a solid game for us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s a good penalty killer. He’s a good faceoff guy. I use his line in a lot of instances situationally. He tends to take a lot of defensive-zone starts, so he’s put in difficult positions and he does a good job for us.
“His leadership speaks for itself and what it brings to our bench and to our locker room. He’s such a quality person in that regard. I think he’s quietly done everything we expected him to do when we signed him.”
Cullen’s place in the lineup will be taken by Riley Sheahan, who was a healthy scratch Saturday night in Ottawa. During morning skate, Sheahan centered Zach Aston-Reese and Bryan Rust on the fourth line.
Cullen’s absence also makes it more likely that Daniel Sprong holds onto a lineup spot. After missing the previous four games as a healthy scratch, Sprong skated on the third line with Dominik Simon and Derek Grant on Saturday. That combination remained intact during Monday’s morning skate.
“I thought Daniel played hard,” Sullivan said. “I thought his line in particular played pretty good. They generated a few scoring chances. We were pleased with his participation in that process. Obviously we’re looking for a little bit more balance throughout our lineup and hopefully they’ll provide that for us.”
Casey DeSmith, meanwhile, will make his return to the net after Matt Murray gave up three goals on 10 shots in the first period Saturday.
“We still believe in Matt Murray, but we’ve also acknowledged a little bit of his early season struggles,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to work with him and help him in that capacity. At the same time, we’re trying to make decisions on a game-to-game basis that are going to help our team win.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.