NHL Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins: With Rob Scuderi Out, Defense Must Adjust Again

Robert Bortuzzo

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes last night by the score of 3-1, and did so without their biggest free agent acquisition, Rob Scuderi.

Scuderi was injured in the first period of their Saturday matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs and did not return. It was revealed today that he suffered a broken ankle on the play and will be out indefinitely.

Missing the game against the Hurricanes ended Scuderi’s ironman streak of 276 games. No timetable has been set for his return, but being the ankle and reading some stories on hockey-related injuries, it could be some time before we see “Scuds” back in the lineup (it was stories on non NHL players, so I would imagine he would be back sooner than the average joe would be).

Without Scuderi, it will push Matt Niskanen back into a top-four role, being paired up with Kris Letang, and it also allows Robert Bortuzzo to continue to get playing time. Bortuzzo has become a solid third-pairing defender and adds an element that the Penguins were going to lack without him in the lineup: physicality.

Something that the Penguins have prided themselves on has been to collect as many puck-moving defenders as possible, as the quicker they can get the puck up to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the quicker they could go on attack. But they have suffered in their own end at times as a result.

Bringing back Scuderi was a safety move to protect their own end while Letang, Niskanen and Paul Martin played the style of hockey they played best. Olli Maatta has shown the ability to be that kind of player, meaning Bortuzzo is a valuable piece to the defensive pie, as he allows Maatta to be more aggressive, something that he has shown makes him an even better defenseman.

In the last game he was a healthy scratch, the New York Islanders were able to have success in front of the net, even scoring the game-winning goal on a rebound when the defenders couldn’t clear the area. At 6-foot-4, his big stick and added physical play, Bortuzzo should be a perfect remedy for that problem.

It’s always unfortunate when a player goes down, but it is the only time when it gives teams a chance to show the depth they have built in a certain position. No one will confuse Bortuzzo with Scuderi, but at this point, he has made his own name for himself.

Anthony Murphy is a contributing writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.