Courtesy of Point Park University

Rutherford hopeful Hornqvist can overcome


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Patric Hornqvist. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

If you had blinked, you might have missed it Tuesday night in Newark.

It came just 40 seconds after Miles Wood's thoroughly dreadful goal, a shuffleboard shot that seeped its way through Matt Murray's five-hole to pull the Devils to within one late in the third period of what turned out to be a 4-3 Penguins victory.

It was then that Patric Hornqvist, from 8 feet out, pushed a Jared McCann centering pass on Keith Kinkaid just to the left of the net where the Devils' goalie easily turned it aside. It was the first and only shot on goal from Hornqvist in what's become an all-too familiar occurrence of late for the Penguins' struggling right winger.

Tuesday marked the 14th straight game that Hornqvist has gone without a goal and the 13th without even a point. It matched the longest such goal-less drought of his career. The previous skid came in the final games of the 2008-09 season when Hornqvist was just a 22-year-old rookie and long before he carved out his reputation as one of the NHL's fiercest and finest net-front presences.

Then again, that was also before a litany of upper body injuries and concussions that have followed in the decade since. Due in equal parts to his reckless style of play and to, well, just bad luck, he's suffered two concussions alone this season. If you're counting, that makes it five brain injuries since the start of the 2014 season. And those are just the ones that have been documented. That's a frightening number for anyone, let alone a human being in Hornqvist's line of work.

A 29-goal scorer a season ago, Hornqvist has just 15 goals in 47 games this season to go along with 11 assists and, for what it's worth, a career-worst minus-5 rating. He's been averaging 15:22 in ice time, or 1:23 less than his average during his four seasons in black and gold. And with 22 games remaining in this most star-crossed season, he's averaging 0.55 points per game, his lowest mark since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when he averaged 0.57 with the Predators.

That might seem an ominous sign for a 32-year-old in the first year of a $26.5 million contract that still has four more years remaining, but not to the man who signed him to that extension last Feb. 27.

"The injuries have affected him," Jim Rutherford allowed during a wide-ranging interview with Wednesday morning.

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