Penguins Camp: Blueger, Di Pauli Injuries Create Aftershocks
WILKES-BARRE — In Death Valley National Park in Nevada at the bottom of a canyon lies a body of water known as the Devils Hole.
While the Devils Hole is a self-contained ecosystem, seemingly cut off from the outside world, it possesses a strange property.
Whenever there’s an earthquake — no matter if it’s in Japan, Chile, or California — the water in the hole will drain and then come rushing back in.
It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and it’s not entirely unlike Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s relationship with its NHL and ECHL affiliates in Pittsburgh and Wheeling.
On Saturday, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan announced that first-year forwards Teddy Blueger and Thomas Di Pauli would miss the next six to eight weeks with lower-body injuries.
Blueger, Pittsburgh’s second round pick in 2012, made his pro debut last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, appearing in 20 total games (10 regular season and 10 playoff games) after finishing his college career at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Di Pauli, a speedster who was another 2012 draft pick, was set to begin his pro career after netting 14 goals with Notre Dame last season.
Minutes after the news broke, its effects could already be seen in Wilkes-Barre, where both Blueger and Di Pauli looked to be locks for opening night.
“It’s a tough break for those guys,” Penguins coach Clark Donatelli said. “Blueger came in and did an excellent job. He was having a really good camp, and Di Pauli played well in the Rookie Tournament and he was making an impression, but that’s hockey.
“We can’t control that, but it’s a great opportunity for guys here now in camp and it opens up a couple more spots.”
Just like that, out rushed Blueger and Di Pauli and in came a new group of skaters eager to take advantage of two new spots in the lineup.
Who stands to benefit the most from the extra spots? Right now, forwards Derek Army, Jarrett Burton and Cody Wydo are likely going to get the closest look.
Of the three, Burton is the lone skater on an AHL deal, and his game compares well with Blueger’s, but Army saw AHL time with four different organizations last year — including the Penguins — and was a steady point producer.
After a slow start, Wydo went on to record 25 goals for Wheeling in his first pro season.
“Army played well (when he was with us), and Burton came up and played extremely well for us as a penalty killer, a utility guy, and faceoff guy,” Donatelli said. “So, these guys have experience and we’ve put some time into developing them, so they’re definitely right there in the running.”
With Matt Murray sidelined because of a broken hand, there’s a bit of a goaltending competition brewing for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
There are a few ways things could shake out, with Casey DeSmith likely to return to Wilkes-Barre at some point and Tristan Jarry and veteran Leland Irving currently battling for the opening night backup job in Pittsburgh.
But right now, both Doug Carr — who is signed to an ECHL deal with Wheeling — and Adam Morrison, who is in camp on a PTO, are looking to make their cases.
“Things change and the goaltender situation is up for grabs right now, and it’s a great opportunity for someone to come in and get that position,” Donatelli said. “It’s still up in the air, but I thought both goalies played well.”
Ironically enough, both Carr and Morrison are familiar with one of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 2015-16 net-minders.
Carr, a UMass-Lowell alum, spent the summer training back in New Hampshire with DeSmith, while Morrison worked out with Jarry this offseason.
“I know there may be a spot here, but at the end of the day, it’s all about what I’m doing,” said Carr, who is a former roommate of forward Scott Wilson. “I’m just trying to get ready to play my best hockey and keep getting better every day.”
Sunday was a nice afternoon for Tristan Jarry, Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney.
Both Rowney and Kuhnhackl found the back of the net in a 2-0 Pittsburgh win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in support of Jarry, who stopped 31 shots.
All three players began last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Defenseman Michael Webster (upper body injury) skated in practice in a red non-contact jersey.
The Penguins will have open practices at 10:30 a.m. each day this week at Coal Street until Thursday, when they host the Albany Devils at Mohegan Sun Arena for their first preseason game of 2016-17. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.