PITTSBURGH – Hours before Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, Mike Sullivan would only divulge one lineup decision. Patric Hornqvist, who’s missed the last six games with an upper-body injury, will return for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they face off against the Nashville Predators.
The remaining decision that’s left for Sullivan, which he said would come before game time, is which forward exits the lineup for Hornqvist. Carl Hagelin and Jake Guentzel are popular choices, and with the Swedish winger skating extra during Monday’s optional, he could be the one watching.
Despite not having scored in eight games dating back to Game 6 of the second round, Guentzel remains tied for the NHL lead in playoff goals with nine. He was a bit unlucky against the Ottawa Senators, hitting a couple of posts while firing 12 other shots that just couldn’t beat Craig Anderson.
This is the longest stretch of Guentzel’s rookie season that he hasn’t scored, but he’s not showing that the pressure is getting to him.
“Sometimes you go through that stretch. You’ve just got to stay positive,” Guentzel said Monday. “Thought I had chances but sometimes they don’t go your way. It’s the way it happens and you’ve just got to move on.”
Through injuries and cold streaks, the Penguins have been successful because there’s always someone there to step up — whether it’s a new body entering the lineup or someone else coming through with a big goal, they’ve gotten through adversity yet again because it’s become a daily part of their lives.
For Game 1, Hornqvist is that guy coming into the lineup expected to make a difference. Despite the injury keeping him out for six games, there won’t be any rein pulling on the guy Hagelin described as a “true Viking.”
“I don’t think we ease anybody into the lineup,” Sullivan said. “When our guys go into the lineup, they’re ready to play, period.”
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