PITTSBURGH — Not too long ago, every puck Jake Guentzel shot seemed to go in the net.
Heck, even the ones he didn’t shoot seemed to go in the net.
But tonight in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, there’s no assurance that Guentzel will even play. The 22-year-old forward hasn’t scored in his last eight games, and his Pittsburgh Penguins will have Patric Hornqvist back in the lineup to face the Nashville Predators.
This morning, head coach Mike Sullivan said that Guentzel and Carl Hagelin will be game-time decisions. There may only be room for one of them to play.
Chances are, Guentzel will be in and Hagelin will sit. The latter stayed on the ice late this morning with the rest of the Pens’ likely scratches.
But if Guentzel does play, he’d surely love to get back on the scoresheet. Yesterday after practice, Sullivan talked up the rookie’s game, even after Guentzel was a limited participant in line rushes.
“I think Jake’s game has been really good,” said Sullivan. “He didn’t score in (the Ottawa) series, but I think there’s more to his game than just that. He’s played some heavy minutes for us since he’s joined our team, in particular, in this playoff race. … He’s a very good player. I think he helps us win even on nights when he doesn’t score because he has a complete skill set. He’s pretty sound defensively. He has awareness away from the puck. He’s a play-maker. He has a high hockey IQ. He’s a competitive guy.”
Guentzel scored nine goals in the first two rounds combined, five against Columbus and four against Washington.