The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently holding the Metropolitan Division lead, and the way they have done it is even more remarkable.
The team is performing very well on the ice, and if we look deeper into the active roster, the number of players that are currently sidelined is huge, especially on the defensive side of the puck. As of today, four of the seven defensemen that were on the Penguins’ Opening Night roster are inactive for several reasons: Paul Martin, Kris Latang, Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik are all out with different injuries, and a fifth defenseman could be added if the NHL decides to suspend Deryk Engelland after his hit against Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.
With all these absences, the Pens have been very creative to establish defensive pairings in recent weeks. Matt Niskanen has been by far the most dependable player on defense, and he has been skating next to Olli Maatta, but the rest of the defensive units include players that have spent significant time on the AHL this season like Brian Dumoulin, Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson.
The team can’t complain based on the results as they have conceded only 2.18 goals per game, good for fourth in the league. However, if the team wants to start preparing a deep playoff run, their best-case scenario would be to have all of their players get healthy as soon as possible.