After three straight losses to start their season, the Pens have shaken things up a bit going into their game tonight against the Ottawa Senators. Not all of them are willing changes.
Right-winger Beau Bennett, one of the team’s best players in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, has suffered an undisclosed injury and will miss tonight’s game as a result.
With Bennett out of the lineup, expect rookie right-winger Daniel Sprong to get his first shot an increased role. Sprong, who is 18, has played three of the nine games he is allotted before the team must decide whether or not to send him back to juniors.
He’s acquitted himself well over the first three games, but that performance has come with the caveat that he’s averaged just 8:39 of ice time on the fourth line. With Bennett out, expect Sprong’s audition to begin in earnest tonight.
Sliding back into the lineup will be winger Bobby Farnham. Farnham played in the season-opener against Dallas, but has been a healthy scratch the last two games. Farnham’s game will find some kindred spirits on the Senators roster, including long-time pest Chris Neil.
With Bennett on the shelf, and Eric Fehr (elbow) skating but not quite ready to join the team, the Penguins were down to 12 forwards. As a result, general manager Jim Rutherford called up right-winger Bryan Rust from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this afternoon.
Rust, 23, had an assist and was a minus-3 in the AHL Penguins first two games last weekend. He got his first NHL actions with a goal and an assist in 14 games with the Penguins last season. Rust was the Pens’ third-round pick out of Notre Dame in the 2010 NHL Draft.
Rust will dress tonight in favor of Russian rookie Sergei Plotnikov.
Going the other way across the state of Pennsylvania will be defenseman Tim Erixon. Erixon did not dress in any of the team’s first three games. He cleared waivers just prior to the beginning of the regular season, so he will not have to clear again to be sent to Wilkes-Barre.
Erixon, 24, came over to the Pens from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade. He last played in the AHL for the Springfield Falcons in 2013-14, when he was in the Columbus Blue Jackets system.
Defenseman Adam Clendening will also get into his first game of the season tonight, in place of veteran Rob Scuderi. Scuderi’s streak of 127 consecutive regular season games played will be broken.
Top of the charts: Through the first week, the NHL scoring leader has no goals and is a defenseman. That would be Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson, whose seven assists have him in the NHL scoring lead.
The last time an NHL defenseman won the Art Ross Trophy was Bobby Orr in 1975.
Some like it hot: With the Penguins starting in a 0-3 hole, there are now questions surrounding the future of head coach Mike Johnston. Gambling website Bodog gives Johnston 11/2 odds of being the first NHL coach fired this season. Claude Julien of Boston is first with 3/2 odds.
In a related matter, on this date in 2001, then-Penguins general manager Craig Patrick fired head coach Ivan Hlinka after the Czech bench boss started the season 0-4. He was replaced by former Penguins winger Rick Kehoe.
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