Trevor Daley (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley was slated to miss 4-to-8 weeks of action with a broken ankle suffered in the Eastern Conference final, effectively ending his season. But Daley isn’t ruling himself out, even though it might take a miracle for him to get back into the lineup.
It’s been nearly a decade since Trevor Daley has been on a team that has gone this deep into the post-season, and with the Penguins having a shot at taking home the Stanley Cup, the 32-year-old defenseman doesn’t want to let his broken ankle keep him out of the series.
Daley’s injury was almost freak in nature. After an innocuous hit from Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ryan Callahan during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, Daley went down in a heap before crawling to the front of the net on all fours to stay in the play. He was helped off the ice, didn’t return to the contest and coach Mike Sullivan said the following day that Daley’s injury was season-ending. Daley doesn’t feel that’s the case.
"I'm not going to rule myself out," Daley said, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. "There's no way. That's keeping me going. I'm enjoying this and I'm not going to rule myself out."
The issue for Daley is that, barring a miracle recovery, the timing doesn’t really work out for his potential return in the Stanley Cup final. The initial timeline for recovery was four-to-eight weeks, meaning at best his return would be slated for mid-June. The Stanley Cup final is set to run until June 15. So were there a Game 7, maybe Daley could get back into the lineup and play a limited role, but a full recovery? That doesn’t seem possible, but don’t tell Daley that.
"I'm going to give myself a chance," he told Rosen. "Why not, right?"
Daley’s loss may not have impacted the Penguins in the Eastern Conference final, but his absence certainly puts more stress on a blueline that doesn’t exactly have top-level depth, which is potentially the only real weakness on an excellent Pittsburgh roster.
Daley was logging more than 22 minutes per game in the post-season and had chipped in a goal and an assist, but he was also facing tough competition on a nightly basis. Those duties have had to fall to less experienced defenders, and though they fared well against the Lightning, it will be tougher to stop a San Jose Sharks attack that is layered, much like the Penguins’ offense.
If Daley were healthy enough, he likely would have been tasked with shutting down Logan Couture’s line with Joonas Donskoi and Patrick Marleau. Instead, it appears Ben Lovejoy and Olli Maatta could be the pairing to take on Couture’s line.