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Ryan Whitney's return to Penguins' blue line edges closer

It would seem Ryan Whitney is on the mend but his return couldn't come soon enough.

The latest news on Whitney's return comes from the man himself. In an article on the Penguins' official site, Whit is quoted as saying he plans to return:

“Not against Atlanta, but I’m hoping soon there after. I’d like to be in before Christmas. That was the goal the whole time. I didn’t really say. I know we have a game against Tampa (Dec. 23) right before Christmas. Possibly that, but I really don’t know. It’s tough to say right now.”

Ryan Whitney

That keeps him right on pace with the project late December, early January return. The good news is he's practicing regularly and has yet to show any indication that there will be a setback in his rehab.

The next few games for the Pens are, on paper at least, totally winnable games. Yet if losses to Phoenix and Ottawa are any indication, then banking a win on stats alone is the worst way to go.

Whitney's return to the blue line will likely send at least one guy down, unless of course Therrien will look to ease Whitney back into the full-time role. It's likely we'll see Alex Goligoski get the demotion, as his play is definitely formidable but still shows signs of AHL quality. I have no doubt that he'll find his way into the lineup down the road on a more full-time basis, but in terms of bringing back an experienced D-man with a shot, I'd like to see GoGo take the demotion in stride.

When Gonchar returns (March/April), it's also likely we'll see another guy go down. But I guess this is where it gets a bit tricky. I for one feel the Pens will want to keep a guy like Tim Wallace on the roster. Have you seen his play lately? He really can muscle a guy off the puck. If there's one area the Pens lack in this season it's muscle.

So, let's take a little poll action here.