NHL

What next for injured Penguins forward Teddy Blueger?

What next for injured Penguins forward Teddy Blueger?

The answer always seems to be the same.

But questions remain.

“Nothing new?”

“Not really. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say.”

That’s typically been the exchange between reporters and Pittsburgh Penguins center Teddy Blueger over the last month and change.

In the paranoid realm of the NHL, any information related to health matters is treated like a code that would disarm a nuclear warhead. As a result, most players, who aren’t usually averse to jamming frozen discs traveling at speeds approaching Germany’s Autobahn, treat inquiries about their well-being with the same bravery that is commonly applied to the handling of a radioactive diaper.

For now, all that is known, at least publicly, is that Blueger is on long-term injured reserve due to an undisclosed injury he suffered in a practice session during training camp on 28 September Aside from two preseason contests, Blueger has yet to appear in a game this season.

Long-term injured reserve, which allows teams to temporarily relieve a player’s salary cap, requires players to be under that designation for 10 of their team’s games and for 24 days on the NHL calendar. Blueger has far exceeded those thresholds as he was eligible to be eliminated on November 5th.

But for the Penguins, who entered the season with just $83,158 in salary cap space according to none friendlydealing with various injuries and illnesses since then, they have needed to keep Blueger, who has a $2.2 million salary cap, on long-term injured reserve in order to recall forwards Drake Claaggiula, Filip Hallander , Sam Poulin and Drew O’Connor and defenseman Mark Friedman of the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the past three weeks.

With the exception of Hallander, who is dealing with an undisclosed ailment, most of the Penguins’ roster appears to be completely healthy.

Including Blueger.

On Monday in Cranberry (and the past few weeks), he practiced at full capacity with no contact limits. In fact, he served as the team’s second-line center in place of Evgeni Malkin, who excused himself to attend to a personal matter.

Coach Mike Sullivan rarely offers much substance about injuries, but he pulled back the curtain a little, very little, when asked about Blueger’s status after Monday’s practice.

“That’s a good question,” Sullivan said. “Right now, Teddy is at the point where he’s reactive, day-to-day, depending on how he responds to the different stimuli we give him, whether it’s in the weight room or on the ice. We will follow the advice of our medical staff. When he is cleared to play, we will try to put him in a position to succeed. He has been a full participant in practice. It looks great out there. His status will remain the same.”

As long as Blueger is ready to play again, he will be a welcome return to a team that has struggled with their penalty kill throughout the season and with their defense, especially in recent games.

Last season, Blueger led the Penguins with 130 shorthanded tackles and was second on the staff with 360 defensive zone tackles in all situations, despite being limited to 65 games due to various ailments.

Suffice to say, the team’s defensive interests involve Blueger heavily.

“I mean a lot,” said forward Brock McGinn, Blueger’s most regular linemate last season with 501 minutes, 52 seconds of five-on-five ice time, according to Natural statistics trick. “His work ethic, his positivity, the way he works on both ends of the court and what he brings to our (penalty) kill is huge. It’ll be nice to have him back when he comes back.”

Seth Rorabaugh is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or through Twitter .





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