One of the biggest notes coming out of Penguins’ training camp Tuesday afternoon was the return of center Riley Sheahan to full team practice after dealing with a lingering lower-body injury sustained before the start of the exhibition period.
Sheahan was quite happy, and seemingly relieved, to be back out on the ice with his teammates.
“It’s been fun (to be back),” Sheahan said. “It’s not very fun coming to the rink and doing all your re-hab by yourself, so it’s good to be back with the team, skating in practice, and hanging out with the guys.”
“It’s refreshing coming here and actually being able to converse with (teammates). It’s the start of the year, and everyone’s excited to be back, but when you’re by yourself, it’s no fun. We’ve got a great group of guys in here; practice is fun, the locker room is fun, so I’m definitely glad to be back with them.”
As far as his actual injury goes, Sheahan went on to mention that he feels a lot better, and that’s it’s something he definitely plans to stay on top of as the preseason continues to play out.
“I’ve been skating a little bit by myself,” he said. “It’s almost harder skating by yourself because you’re the only one out there. You don’t get the proper rest time. I feel good.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with our strength trainers. I’ve been good with staying on top of things. I feel good out there, and I don’t think (my conditioning is) something I’m worried about.”
Unlike many of his teammates, Sheahan has never experienced Matt Cullen’s style of play or leadership presence, and Tuesday’s practice gave him his first taste of what it’s going to be like having Cullen alongside him in the lineup. It also gave him a sense of what to expect from Daniel Sprong and his lethal set of skills, and even though it was only one day, Sheahan had a lot of praise for both guys expected to be on the roster come Opening Night.
“(Playing with Cullen and Sprong) was good,” he said. “(We were) doing a bunch of flow drills out there. Sprong is a very skilled player, and Cully is too. It’s fun getting to know them out there on the ice, and we’ll see what happens when it comes to games.”
Mike Sullivan is planning on taking Sheahan’s return day-by-day to see how he feels after finally getting back into the full mix, and he’s adamant about not pushing him too early. Considering Sheahan has a week and a couple days to prepare for the Penguins’ matchup with the Washington Capitals, not being in a rush is the obvious plan of action, as to not have him hurt something again.
“(Sheahan’s return) is really encouraging,” Sullivan said. “I thought he had a great practice (Tuesday), and the last practice he had, we thought he had a strong practice. He’s really making a lot of progress. He feels really strong, and barring any setbacks, we’re going to try and get in in some exhibition games.”
Sheahan was also asked how he feels about the idea of having two centers on his line, and his eyes lit up as the prospect of it.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “When you’re the first guy back in the zone and you have two centermen out there, I think just form a defensive standpoint, you’re at an advantage. Face-offs are huge. I always had a hard time facing off against (Cullen) when I was on Pittsburgh and he was (on the Minnesota Wild) last year. So, I think just having that option when you get kicked out (of the circle), and you have another guy coming in that that has a good chance of winning the draw, it helps out a lot.”
Sheahan is scheduled to see his first preseason game action Wednesday night when the Buffalo Sabres come to town.