Penguins notebook: Bonino likely out 'at least a month'
January 14, 2016 1:50 PM
Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Nick Bonino tries to defend against Carolina's Jeff Skinner on Tuesday.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TAMPA — The Penguins are going to be without center Nick Bonino for an extended period because of a hand injury.
He was hurt Tuesday in the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime loss at Carolina.
Coach Mike Sullivan declined to predict how long Bonino will be sidelined, but general manager Jim Rutherford said he expects the Penguins to be without him for “at least a month.”
Rutherford added that, at least in the short term, the Penguins will try to fill the void created by Bonino’s absence internally, although Sullivan said it hasn’t been determined precisely how that will be done.
It’s possible, if not likely, that Eric Fehr will move from right wing on the fourth line to center on the third, even though Sullivan seems reluctant to break up the No. 4 line, which has included Matt Cullen and Kevin Porter, because of its effective play.
“We haven’t made a definite decision on where we’re going to go, as far as line combinations,” Sullivan said after practice Thursday at Amalie Arena, where the Penguins will face Tampa Bay tonight.
Bonino has three goals and seven assists in 40 games, tying him for 10th place in the team scoring race. He also has been the Penguins’ second-best faceoff man, winning 53.3 percent of his draws.
“He’s going to be missed in a lot of areas,” Sullivan said. “He’s a real smart player. He’s been a big part of the penalty-kill. He’s a guy you can lean on to take faceoffs in the defensive zone when you need him.”
Sullivan added that “it will probably be a few guys” who take on Bonino’s penalty-killing duties, naming Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust as candidates.
He added that Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz will continue to get some short-handed work, although not as one of the two core pairings.
“What we’ve tried to do is put them in situations where we can take advantage of their skill sets,” Sullivan said.
Regardless of how Sullivan configures his forward lines, Bonino’s injury opens a spot for Sergei Plotnikov, a healthy scratch for four of the past nine games.
He has no goals and two assists in 32 appearances this season.
“[Plotnikov] is a guy I’m trying to learn more about, as far as what his core competency is, what he’s going to bring to the team,” Sullivan said. “He’s played more of a back-six forward role since I’ve been here but obviously, when you play in that capacity, you’ve got to be strong away from the puck, you’ve got to be sound defensively, you have to be good on the [boards].
“One of his strengths is his ability to play in the battle areas — net-front, in the corners. He protects the puck really well. Our next step is, we’d like to see it materialize into something [tangible].”
A little bit of sun
Conditions Thursday in Tampa were nothing special, as the temperature flirted with 70 degrees and the skies were overcast most of the time, but the Penguins weren’t about to complain about the weather.
“It’s nice to get some sun this time of year,” Crosby said. “When we have the Florida trips or the California trips scheduled when it’s winter at home, it’s always nice to know you’re going to get some sun.
“Somehow, we didn’t get sun [Wednesday]. Those gray skies just seemed to follow us. But you definitely get up for a couple of days of sun.”
Dave Molinari: email@example.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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