Hockey has not been kind to Jason Zucker’s body.
Zucker in 2011 He broke his collarbone in 2015 and The penguin lineup was rocked.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on March 31, following Zucker’s injury:
“It was horrible. He obviously hates to see you. We see him working hard every day. So it was unfortunate to have this happen in the first leg of the return. – Casey DeSmith
He’s a big part of this team off the ice. I think just getting him back is a spark for us as well. You can watch the first two episodes. – John Marino
Over the past two seasons, Zucker has won 79 of the Penguins’ 138 regular season games.
Since at least December 2021, when he started missing practices due to an unfortunate core problem, he may not have been fully healthy except for the five minutes he scored on an assist during his return.
Finally, Zucker’s return to the lineup could mean a reliable linemate for Evgeni Malkin for the first time in over a year.
In the year In 2021-22, Malkin’s most consistent linemate at 5v5 was Danton Heinen.
That almost certainly wasn’t the intent when they signed Hayne as a free agent in the summer of 2021. Malkin ended up playing with everyone from Brock McGinn to Evan Rodriguez to Rickard Rakell in 2021-22. Some of these pairs are stuck.
But if Zucker returns and Rakell can skate on the first line, the Penguins will have a chance to return to a previously successful option we saw little of last year: a second line of Zucker, Malkin and Bryan Rust.
The trio spent more than 10 minutes together in eight of the Penguins’ games while healthy at the same time in 42, according to the Natural Stat Trick.
But Penguins fans saw some chemistry in those eight games—perhaps more than Malkin’s many 5v5 combinations in 2020-21.
The April 23 goal against the Detroit Red Wings encapsulated the things he loved about them: intense puck battles against a particularly tough Wizards rustler and allowing Zucker Malkin to hit a dangerous shot.
They’ll see him again on that goal last season against the visiting Islanders. Malkin isn’t the Penguins’ most consistent point guard, but Rust and Zucker’s efforts have motivated him to jump into the zone, perhaps because he knows they’re more likely to get possessions.
We’ve seen a Zucker-Malkin-Rackle line at 5v5 in less than 20 minutes, and there’s a good chance the Penguins will give this line another shot in 2022-23. After all, the Guentzel-Crosby-Rust top line is a proven winning combination.
Either way, the addition of Raquel or Rust to Malkin’s wing at the start of the season (knock on wood) with everyone healthy could give Malkin a chance to build chemistry with his linemates for the first time in over a year. .