One of the biggest storylines and positive developments for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the rehab and availability of forward Jake Guentzel. Had this have been a normal year, the talented player would have not been playing in the playoffs due to a major shoulder injury suffered in late December. However, this has not been a normal year, and while there’s really nothing good about a global pandemic that’s affected just about everyone in the world in one way or another, for the Pens the season stop has bought time for Guentzel to heal up.
Now that the team has re-opened their practice facility for small groups, Guentzel is out there with his teammates and is on a positive path.
Guentzel: "I'm getting better every day. I'm just sticking to the protocol. If we start playing, hopefully I'll be ready by then." pic.twitter.com/ySyLEZRnRC— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 10, 2020
“Jake is participating in the informal skates this week with other players,” coach Mike Sullivan said yesterday. “His progress is as anticipated and we’re very encouraged where he’s at.”
Sullivan and Jim Rutherford have been fairly optimistic in quotes over the past few weeks and months, but to tangibly see Guentzel back in action at the start of this phase is a great thing for the team.
Here’s some video from the PG’s Mike DeFabo:
Here’s some video evidence (courtesy of the Pens) of Jake Guentzel back on the ice during Phase 2. pic.twitter.com/QabKYQJkBB— Mike DeFabo (@MikeDeFabo) June 10, 2020
In almost a weird Faustian bargain, if you were told in February “OK, the Pens can get Guentzel back for the playoffs — BUT they’ll have to risk their playoff spot with a five game series with Montreal” would you take it? It’s no certainty, but if the Pens can get by the Canadiens, surely having Guentzel back to play Eastern Conference opponents like the Flyers, Capitals, Bruins and Lightning will be a big benefit over the alternative of missing a player with 43 points and 24 goals in 41 career NHL playoff games.
Based on video the Pens have put out there, Guentzel skated yesterday with a small group that included Sidney Crosby, John Marino, Brian Dumoulin and goalie Casey DeSmith. A different group went on the ice with Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann and Jack Johnson. Other groups likely took to the ice as well, given that their is a limit of six players grouped together at a time.
A lot is still up in the air as the NHL tries to ramp up and reopen in this climate, but it sure is good to see a picture like this.
Hockey may not be close close to being back, but seeing Guentzel back on the ice after all this time is a pretty nice sight.