As far as the Penguins are concerned, left-handed, left-sided defensemen are an endangered species.
Mike Matheson is on long-term injured reserve. Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola left Tuesday’s game against Washington hurt. Right-handed Chad Ruhwedel flipped to the left side to finish the game, but should not be asked to do that moving forward.
It is time for the Penguins to give Pierre-Olivier Joseph a chance?
Joseph, 21, was the big get from Arizona in the Phil Kessel trade. He’s left-handed. His skating and puck movement are both smooth. Joseph worked his way up to top-four minutes last season with the Penguins’ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton farm club. Joseph has talent. He projects as a good fit.
The downside: He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 163 pounds and may be even lighter. Joseph might be easily muscled at the NHL level. He could also get broken in half.
But Matheson, Pettersson and Riikola are all bigger, and they got hurt. So, next man up.
Another option is Kevin Czuczman, 30, I hate him because I can’t figure out how to pronounce his last name, and thus do it different every time. (See Sceviour, Colton.) Czuczman is left-handed, left-sided and has played 13 NHL games.
Joseph and Czuczman might both have to play depending on the severity of the injuries to Pettersson and Riikola. Or maybe Cody Ceci re-enters the lineup and Ruhwedel stays on the left side for now. (That’s not what I’d do.)
Fans want to see Joseph because of his potential. But if he does crack the lineup, realize his limitations and that he’s never before played in the NHL. Be patient.
Image Courtesy of The Pittsburgh Penguins