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Brian Dumoulin still a game-time decision, likely to suit up vs. Capitals

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Dumoulin is still waiting on the green-light from Mike Sullivan to start in tonight’s game vs. Washington.

NHL: Preseason-Buffalo Sabres at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

An upper-body injury sustained in the Penguins’ preseason finale last Friday night against the Blue Jackets has placed a question mark on Brian Dumoulin’s status for the team’s home opener against the Washington Capitals tonight. However, Dumoulin confirmed in media scrums Wednesday afternoon that he’s feeling very good, and his recovery process has been right on track.

“It’s was good to have those couple days between the last preseason game and (Wednesday) to fully recover and get back with the team,” said Dumoulin. “It’s good that we had a lot of practices. I skated on my own for a little bit, and joined the team (Wednesday) before we play (tonight). I’m feeling pretty good now. Obviously it’s good to have those days to recover.”

During Wednesday’s practice, Dumoulin was seen initially in a non-contact jersey, but then switched to a regular, full-contact one and reported no significant injury issues afterwards. He skated on his usual spot on the Penguins’ top defensive pairing with Kris Letang.

When asked about whether or not Dumoulin would be good to go, he explained that Mike Sullivan is still waiting on making that final decision until closer to the game’s start.

“I still have to (pass) a couple clearances with the team doctor and Sully,” he said. “I’m a game-time decision right now, but it’s good to have a full practice with contact. Our training staff has done a great job of making sure I’m ready to go instead of rushing back and trying to play in that first game. Obviously everyone wants to be a part of (opening night). It’s great, especially being here in Pittsburgh. I’m doing everything I can to hopefully play (Thursday night), but I’m taking it step-by-step.”

Of course, if Dumoulin isn’t ultimately cleared, Juuso Riikola would be the next man up to take over his minutes, a feat that’s incredible in itself. Riikola could also get settled onto a bottom pair to give another guy opportunity to play with Letang. He was seen skating with Chad Ruhwedel during practice.

Dumoulin also provided some perspective on playing the Capitals in Pittsburgh’s first game back, and if it’s different at all since they’re coming off a Stanley Cup victory — especially since they were the team to knock the Penguins out of the playoffs in May.

“You can feel the energy throughout the team,” he said. Everyone’s excited to start playing for something again, especially with ending last year on a sour note. The games are already pretty intense, and I think this game upcoming is going to be no different. It’s going to be a fun one to play in. Even though it’s just a regular season game, the stakes are high. It’s going to be a lot of fun to go out there and play, especially with (Washington) being our first game.”

Naturally, the defenseman was also asked if he thought the team as a whole would have any malevolent feelings towards watching Washington raise their championship banner, and he offered an amusing response. Dumoulin, however, didn’t waiver afterwards on what the Penguins plan on doing come puck drop.

“You can watch (the banner raising) if you want,” he said with a smile. “It’s going to be a competitive hockey game, but it doesn’t change our outlook on them. We obviously know they’re a great team. We have a history together. But regardless of who our opponent is, everyone is just chopping at the bit to get out there. Obviously with us not having the banner night, it’s a little added motivation, but they have to come (to Pittsburgh) on a back-to-back, so we’re going to try to take advantage of it.”