Even though they are already 12 games into the season we still really do not have a solid understanding of what the 2019-20 Pittsburgh Penguins will look like, mainly we have not actually seen them.
From the very beginning the preferred lineup constructed by general manager Jim Rutherford has been limited by significant injuries that have kept several key players out of the lineup.
That is now finally starting to change for them.
The team announced on Tuesday that forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Brian Dumoulin have been activated from injured reserve, and it seems possible — if not likely — that both could be in the lineup for their game against divisional rival Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Dumoulin has been sidelined for the past four games, while Galchenyuk has not played since the third game of the season.
Dumoulin is half of the team’s top defense pairing alongside Kris Letang, while Galchenyuk was expected to play a major role in the top-six after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in the Phil Kessel trade. Injuries have put those plans on hold.
The Penguins already got forwards Nick Bjugstad and Bryan Rust back from injury at the end of their most recent road trip, while superstar center Evgeni Malkin (who has played in just two games) is hoping to be ready for Saturday afternoon’s game against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
Suddenly, the Penguins’ roster is starting to take shape.
As a group the Penguins have already lost 45 man-games to injury this season for players that were supposed to play major roles (Malkin, Galchenyuk, Rust, Dumoulin, Bjugstad, Jared McCann), and often times left them with a patchwork lineup filled with call-ups. Their forward depth was so gutted that defenseman Juuso Rikolla had to suit up as a forward for multiple games. Their second line was supposed to feature Malkin and Galchenyuk (a duo that showed great chemistry throughout training camp and the preseason) and they have actually seen them on the ice at the same time for exactly 20 minutes.
Despite all of the injuries the Penguins have still managed to play solid hockey and win the majority of their games. Even when they have not won a lot of them have been right there for the taking. The effort, structure, and style of play that coach Mike Sullivan has wanted has consistently been in place, but they have a times just not always had the talent or finishing ability in the lineup to convert and turn it into consistent results. Rutherford and Sullivan have been bullish on this team’s chances to contend for a Stanley Cup after their disappointing postseason exit a year ago, and it seems like we will finally get an opportunity to see if the roster they have constructed can match their vision.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.