Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ defenseman David Warsofsky has four points in his last two games, yet he’s left sitting across the state waiting for his chance.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins lost two of their most valuable defenders – Kris Letang and Trevor Daley – to injury since Thursday, he seemed like an obvious candidate to be recalled but that didn’t happen.
Both Penguins regulars are expected to miss time measured in weeks, not days, which instead sparked the recall of Derrick Pouliot and Chad Ruhwedel. That made Warsofsky, and his offensive instincts, the perfect candidate to be mentioned in a popular Internet meme featuring Kermit the Frog sipping tea. It’s used to state a thought or fact that would better fit a situation followed by a sarcastic ‘but that’s none of my business.’
For example, “Warsofsky has four points in his past two games and he wasn’t recalled, but that’s none of my business,” the caption would read.
Recalling Pouliot isn’t shocking. He is a former first-round draft pick that’s still trying to find a foothold in the NHL and has high-end offensive instincts, but his defensive game is still a major liability.
Ruhwedel is a capable puck mover and has the ability to chip in points, as evidenced by 13 in 26 games at Wilkes-Barre Scranton this season, but he’s played only 33 total NHL games over four seasons.
The two recalls joined Steve Oleksy, who was already in Pittsburgh serving as the Penguins’ seventh defenseman for most of the season.
Coach Mike Sullivan decided to use Pouliot and Oleksy against the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, and it didn’t work. The team allowed a season-high 49 shots during a 2-1 overtime loss, and both new additions stood out for the wrong reasons.
Oleksy inadvertently tipped Nikita Zaitsev’s shot past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as he was trying to knock it out of the air which eliminated a 1-0 lead for his team. Then Pouliot misplayed a puck into the feet of the referee behind his own net in overtime. Speedy Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner stole the puck, wheeled out in front of Fleury and lost the puck, but Jake Gardiner flipped the winning shot into the net.
The duo combined to post a minus-2 rating, two penalty minutes, three blocked shots, five hits and the egregious giveaway that ended the game.
This all leaves one key question – what does Warsofsky have to do to get a look?
One year ago at this time, he was in Pittsburgh and quarterbacking the power play as an injury fill in. He played 11 December games for the Penguins and 12 overall, posting one power-play goal, 21 shots and a minus-6 rating, while averaging 17:45 per night. He played four games earlier this season while Letang was on the shelf, posting no points, six shots and a plus-1 rating.
He isn’t a large man at 5-foot-9 and weighing in at 170 pounds. That could be problematic against larger opposing forwards, but his offensive approach and puck-moving ability would fit in nicely. It’s also worth noting that in the new-look NHL, which is trending toward more speed and skill, he’d fit in better than ever.
Warsofky has been playing well since the injury bug struck the Penguins. He has scored goals in back-to-back games and has those aforementioned four points over that span. That production has pushed his season totals to five goals, 12 assists and 17 points in 18 games. He is carrying a plus-9 rating, has 62 shots and has picked up four of his goals on the power play. All of that would play very nicely on a depleted blue line in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins don’t play again until Tuesday when they face their Metropolitan Division rivals the New York Rangers. It is doubtful that another roster move will occur before then, giving Ruhwedel a chance to show that he can chip in until the team gets healthy.
That move has the potential to yield the same results that we saw in Toronto on Saturday, which might just open the door for Warsofsky.
Warsofsky’s game fits a need. He can chip in on the power play, and he knows how to get the puck up ice to his forwards. With Letang and Daley not due back before the New Year, Warsofsky’s time will come.
Or at least it should. Until then, he’ll be across the state sipping his tea.