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Penguins notebook: Goalie Matt Murray ‘being evaluated’ after taking puck to helmet

March 18, 2018

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, who has started or played in each of the past nine games, left practice early Monday morning after he was hit in the helmet with a puck.

His status for the game Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena against the New Jersey Devils is uncertain.

“He was evaluated by the doctors,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “I believe he’s going to be evaluated again in the morning, and then we’ll have a better idea of whether he’s going to be able to play.”

Murray suffered the only concussion of his NHL career in 2016 when he took a knee to head from the Philadelphia Flyers’ Brayden Schenn in the final game of the regular season. Murray missed the first two games of the playoffs and played in 21 others.

Later in the day, the Penguins swapped backup goaltenders, sending Tristan Jarry to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and calling up Casey DeSmith. The team planned to alternate Jarry and DeSmith as Murray’s backup, even before Jarry allowed four goals and was pulled in the second period of the 6-5 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

DeSmith will be the backup to Murray or the starter Tuesday.

In another transaction — this one paper only — forward Zach Aston-Reese was sent down to WBS by the 3 p.m. trading deadline, so he can be eligible for the American Hockey League playoffs. Minutes later, he was recalled to the Penguins.

Jarry, DeSmith and Dominik Simon, who was sent to WBS on Monday, also will be eligible for the AHL playoffs.

More injury news

Tom Kuhnhackl got some good news when he went through a full practice Monday for the first time since he suffered a lower body injury Feb. 6.

He said he felt good after practice and believes he will be ready to play Tuesday night, if needed. But he also is waiting to see how his body reacts overnight.

By sending Simon to WBS, the Penguins indicated they might expect Kuhnhackl to play.

“If he needs me, I’m ready,” Kuhnhackl said. “I feel good enough. I’ll see how I react (Tuesday). “It was a hard skate (Monday). I felt good on the skates, didn’t have any issues.”

Said coach Mike Sullivan, “He looked strong.”

Phil Kessel was given Monday off as a maintenance day. He suffered an upper-body injury Friday at Carolina.

Cheers mean bad news

If Kuhnhackl learned anything from the Winter Olympics, it’s this: If you have to go the men’s room, wait until the game ends.

Kuhnhackl, who was born in Landshut, Germany, was flying home with his teammates Saturday night when the Olympics gold-medal contest between Russia and Germany was starting.

Wi-Fi on the plane wasn’t working well, so he decided to nap.

“I woke up, and they told me Germany was up 3-2 with two minutes left. I was super excited. I went to the bathroom, came back and they tied it up, 3-3. On the way home I got the bad news.”

Russia won in overtime.

He said he heard screaming while he was in the bathroom and thought that didn’t sound good for the homeland. He’s the only Penguins player born in Germany.

“I locked myself in the bathroom,” he said.

Waiting on Brassard

Sullivan said the team is continuing to wait on Derick Brassard’s immigration papers so he can join the team after the trade with Ottawa.

“He’s in Toronto right now,” Sullivan said. “Hopefully, it will sometime (Monday) or (Tuesday).”

Devils get quicker

The Devils were fast before trading for winger Michael Grabner. Now, as they come to Pittsburgh, they’re faster.

“He’s a guy who’s really dangerous,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “You mismanage the puck, and he’s a guy who can be gone pretty quickly. He’s somebody to be aware of. There are a lot of guys on their team who can skate.

“They play a fast game, very similar to the way we like to play.”

Skating with Sid, NHL-style

Crosby, who skated with Bryan Rust on Saturday, had Jake Guentzel added to his line Monday, giving him two speedy wingers, at least for practice.

He said playing with different linemates — he’s had several combinations this season — will help the team in the long run.

“That’s been pretty common,” he said. “It’s a matter of going out there and producing and making things happen. Usually, when you’re doing that, the lines aren’t changing.“Everybody just plays their role, no matter what line they’re on.“Of Guentzel he said, “We’ve played together a lot, so being familiar with each other should help us.”

Sullivan is hoping the Crosby line settles into a regular combination.

“We moved a lot of people around Sid lately to see if we can find some chemistry, see if we can find some traction with his line,” Sullivan said. “We’d like to do our best to settle into some consistency.”

Skating with Sid, kid-style

Crosby joined 100 members of the Little Penguins youth hockey program (ages 4-9) on the ice after practice. It was a surprise to most of them who were told they were just going to skate with each other.

“They have a ton of energy,” Crosby said. “It brings you back.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.