MORNING PENS BUZZ
While the Penguins internally project Ben Lovejoy playing a second pairing role with Christian Ehrhoff, when you don’t have a true No. 4 defenseman on the roster, everything is likely going to be in play for the Penguins moving forward, regarding how their second and third pairs shake out.
“It will be important to first get a feel for them in games, practice,” Mike Johnston said of the Penguins new additions. “It’s going to sort of be a trial and error for the first couple games here. You try to project on where you may like them and we’ll see how it works out.”
Christian Ehrhoff having recurring symptoms over the weekend that the Penguins don’t believe is a long-term concern, won’t have Ehrhoff and Lovejoy getting a look together tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. While Ehrhoff traveled with the team and skated Tuesday, he won’t be playing for the start of the road trip.
“I had a little bump in the road,” Ehrhoff said after Tuesday’s practice. “I felt great Wednesday coming back and the next day too. But I had some symptoms coming back. — Again [will] take it day by day and move on from there.”
“Anybody that comes back from a concussion, doctors monitor him really close,” Penguins head coach Mike Johnston said. “I think with Christian monitoring is the main thing.”
While it remains to be seen whether Lovejoy can come in and solidify that No. 4 defenseman role, an interesting player to watch moving forward is Rob Scuderi.
Scuderi has excelled this season on the penalty kill, proving great worth in that area, and at even strength the Penguins have done a good job of not taxing him or exposing him, as he’s a third pairing type defenseman 5 v 5 at this stage in his career.
Scuderi is averaging 15:36 per game at even strength and if there’s a scenario where the Penguins need him to log 18-20 minutes per game 5 v 5 and play a top-2 pairing role, it could be troublesome for the Penguins.
An interesting subplot to Despres getting moved is how it affects Scuderi. The two prominently played together, on ice together 5 v 5 for nearly 630:00. While the Penguins felt Scuderi was a great security blanket for Despres mistakes, some observers feel Despres covered up for Scuderi and has made him look better this season than he’s actually played.
As for losing Despres, Johnston made it clear Tuesday that down the stretch and into the playoffs, he prioritizes how a defenseman defends and can get the puck out of the zone over physicality.
“I don’t think we lose much in size but Simon is one of the big hitters in the league,” Johnston said.
“Important thing is down the stretch and into playoffs, how you defend is really important, how your defensive skills are and how quickly you break out of your own zone,” Johnston said. “That’s a real important skill for a defenseman. Right now it’s playing good defensive hockey when we have to, getting the puck moving in the hands of our forwards….. So the physical play is important in the playoffs but it’s how you defend and how quickly you leave the zone.”