Somehow, the Ottawa Senators are still pushing for a playoff berth — although it looks as if they may be at risk of losing a strong defenseman in doing so.
Patrick Wiercioch went down following a botched hip check early on in the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, delivered by Penguins forward Chris Kunitz. Per the team, he headed to the locker room almost immediately, and could be out for the remainder of the game.
GIF: better look at Kunitz hit. pic.twitter.com/nShcAFXxXu
— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) April 8, 2015
Although it doesn’t seem to be the most dangerous open-ice hit, the way that Wiercioch — who has played in fifty-three games this season with the Senators and averages just under 18:00 of ice time per game — went down suggests that it could be a knee injury, although it’s probably too early to tell. The blue liner seemed to attempt to avoid the hit, which ended up with him falling awkwardly and landing even more painfully.
If Wiercioch is out, the Senators won’t necessarily be missing their key piece of the team. Although a solid defensive player, the blue liner isn’t one of the team’s top pairing d-men — far from it. Things would look much more hairy with the loss of someone like Erik Karlsson from the game.
With the Senators already down 3-0 at the time of the hit, though, this could be the turning point that saves the Penguins. The Metropolitan Division team plummeted in the standings so quickly following the trade deadline that they sit in the Wild Card spot alongside the Detroit Red Wings, just two points up on the Senators themselves. Had the Senators staged a coup and turned the game around, things could get out of hand in Pittsburgh; with an unprotected first round pick promised to the Edmonton Oilers and a good chance at missing the playoffs, the Penguins are getting desperate.