Defenseman Jacob Trouba was back in the Rangers’ lineup Sunday night in Pittsburgh after sustaining a broken thumb on Feb. 16 that sidelined him for eight games.
After initially receiving a four-to-six week timeline for his return, Trouba began skating with the team around the three-week mark and proved to be way ahead of schedule. Trouba registered the secondary assist on Mika Zibanejad’s goal at 1:18 of the first period, along with one shot, one hit and two takeaways in 21:32 in the 5-1 loss to the Penguins.
“I thought I felt good,” the 27-year-old defenseman said. “Obviously, there’s a little break so it takes a little bit to get back. But we played a pretty solid first period as a team and kind of had a bad stretch of two minutes and they cost us.”
Trouba replaced Jack Johnson on the second defensive pairing next to K’Andre Miller. Johnson, who has yet to register a point through 12 games this season, appears to still be nursing the lower-body injury he sustained earlier in the season, according to head coach David Quinn.
“Jack’s been a warrior through all this,” Quinn said prior to the loss, which dropped the Rangers to 10-10-3. “Obviously he had the lower-body thing he’s been dealing with and you know what he actually came at a good time, going back-to-back for Jack.”
Additionally, Phil Di Giuseppe, who was scratched in Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Devils, was inserted on the fourth line alongside Brendan Lemieux and Brett Howden on Sunday. That lineup switch came at the expense of Colin Blackwell, who had gone the past three games without a point after a stretch of points in five of six games at the end of February.
“Blackwell’s been struggling the last three games,” Quinn said of his decision to scratch Blackwell. “I’ve had a couple conversations with him and I thought Giuseppe was playing well when we sat him. It was a tough conversation. Blackwell’s obviously had a good year so far but it was just the last few games he was struggling.”
Alexandar Georgiev made back-to-back starts in net for just the third time this season. It was his fourth start in the last six games.
The 25-year-old Bulgarian netminder was lit up for three goals on the Penguins’ first six shots of the first period before he was replaced by Keith Kinkaid, who was called up from the taxi squad in wake of Igor Shesterkin’s mild groin strain.
Pavel Buchnevich’s primary assist on Zibanejad’s game-opening tally counted as his 100th assist of his NHL career.
Defenseman Anthony Bitetto continues to nurse a lower-body injury, which has kept him out of the Rangers lineup since Feb. 24.
Quinn revealed Sunday night that the Long Island native wasn’t with the team in Pittsburgh.