Penguins rule Hornqvist out for Game 4; Can Simon step up?

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Patric Hornqvist won’t be in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup for Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

Head coach Mike Sullivan revealed as much after Hornqvist missed practice today, when Dominik Simon joined Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the first line. If that stands, Simon would makes his first career NHL postseason appearance.

That wouldn’t be the only adjustment for the Penguins’ forward lines according to practice combos, as Phil Kessel was back with Evgeni Malkin (and Carl Hagelin) on Pittsburgh’s second line.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

No doubt about it, losing Hornqvist hurts, as Sullivan discussed.

“Hornqvist’s not an easy guy to replace,” Sullivan said. “He’s a unique player for us. He brings a lot. By committee, we’re going to have to pick up the pieces … We believe we have the personnel to do it. We have depth at the forward position.”

Hornqvist, 31, is basically always an agitating presence who can chip in plenty of points. The Swede has really been on fire lately, though. Hornqvist scored a point in the Penguins’ three playoff games so far (one goal, two assists). He ended the regular season on a seven-game point streak (six goals, three assists), scoring a goal in five consecutive games. So, overall, he had generated at least one point in 10 straight games.

It’s not clear what might have caused Hornqvist’s upper-body injury, as the hard-nosed forward takes (and dishes out) a ton of punishment, particularly during his frequent trips to the front of the net. It’s difficult not to think of Hornqvist’s Game 2 tumble into the boards, which drew a polarizing embellishment call:

Simon, 23, last suited up for the Penguins on March 25. So far this season, Simon generated four goals and 12 points in 33 games. Maybe rust will be a slight factor there, but it’s promising for Pittsburgh that Simon already developed some chemistry skating with Crosby in 2017-18.

Kris Letang could be another Penguin worth monitoring. The talented defenseman did not practice on Tuesday, and while Sullivan labeled it a “maintenance day,” there was that scary collision with Claude Giroux from Game 2.

The Philadelphia Flyers could see some changes of their own in Game 4, particularly if an injury scare for Sean Couturier translates to him actually sitting out the game.

Game 4 airs on NBCSN on Wednesday. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET. The Penguins lead the series 2-1.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.