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The Penguins will likely have Jake Guentzel for their next game....whenever that is

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More encouraging comments from the Penguins winger about his recovery

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Guentzel talked recently, which is something at least.

Guentzel was ruled out for 4-6 months after getting hurt (and immediately having surgery) just before the turn of the calendar year. Which means that we’re getting close to the start of the window where he could be available to play. Of course though, no one is able to play hockey right now, but that’s one good sign for the Penguins that Guentzel seems upbeat about the status of his rehab.

And when will that return be? It’s still a very uncertain climate and unknown, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke upon what the future could hold earlier in the week.

The NHL extended its self-quarantine period for players and staff through April 30.

The League has been looking at various forms of testing. Commissioner Bettman said it must have the appropriate medical protocols in place, especially with players now spread across North America and Europe.

”When we decide it’s time to play, we’ve got to get everybody back and be comfortable that not only are we not only infecting the population of players, but that we’re not bringing the coronavirus from other places into jurisdictions where the players and other personnel are going,” the Commissioner said.

Commissioner Bettman said after speaking to players and the NHL Players’ Association, the League knows players will need 2-3 weeks to get into game shape. They have not had access to team facilities to work out, or to ice to skate.

”Our health and safety concerns are first and foremost [related to the virus], and secondly, we don’t want our players risking injury prematurely,” the Commissioner said.

The Commissioner said the NHL has been exploring the possibility of neutral sites for games because the effect of the coronavirus might differ by location, and that might be the safest, most efficient alternative.

When the season was paused, the 31 teams had played from 68-71 games of the 82-game regular season and all but one team were contending for berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

”Our competitive balance is so extraordinary, there are seven, at least, seven teams that were on the bubble of making the playoffs,” Commissioner Bettman said, “and not all the teams have played the same number of games.

”Whenever we do to come back — and this is where I’m talking about being agile and flexible — we’re going to have to do something, whether it’s complete the regular season in whole or in part, whether or not it’s expanded playoffs, we’re going to have to do something that’s fair and has integrity.

”That’s going to be very important no matter what it is we do, and we’re considering all of the alternatives, and nothing has been ruled in, and nothing has been ruled out.”

The NHL has also talked of pushing the start of the 2020-21 season back, if necessary, to fit in awarding a Stanley Cup sometime in 2020 as the league would like to do. But as of now, Guentzel, the Pens and the rest of the league will be in the same boat - waiting to see what happens in a situation out of their control.

Step one would be the end of a self-quarantine (which won’t be until at least, and likely beyond, May 1st) followed by 2-3 weeks of ramping up before seeing what could come next for playing. Given that NHL playoffs can take about 10 weeks in normal circumstances, you can see the league will run out of runway pretty quickly if the self-quarantines aren’t ended in the near future. But whether or not that is advisable or possible, like so much else, is still up in the air.