The Penguins have not had much good luck or news on the injury front, but did receive and share some with three players making major strides to return to the lineup.
“Certainly nice to have some guys participating,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Tanger obviously participated in full capacity today, so did Mike Matheson and Zach Aston-Reese. Right now their status is still day-to-day, but that’s certainly encouraging.”
Kris Letang appeared for the first time since suffering a minor injury on Saturday night. Letang played fully and with the first power play group, he is expected to return to the lineup for Pittsburgh’s next game on Saturday against the Islanders.
Matheson, who has missed the last eight games with injury, practiced on a second pair and also looks ready to return.
“That’s going to be up to the training staff and team doctor to ultimately make that call [on playing], but I feel really good and I think I’m getting close to 100%, and that gives me a lot of confidence,” Matheson said following yesterday’s workout.
Aston-Reese has had the longest process, coming back from an off-season shoulder surgery that has kept him out since last playoffs.
“I feel pretty good,” Aston-Reese said. “I’ve been skating for the last two months with Ty [Hennes, skills coach]. I think we’ve put a lot of work in, so I don’t really have anything lingering from surgery. It honestly feels better than when it did before.”
Unfortunately that good news would not continue with the Thrusday absence of John Marino from the ice. Marino was added to the league’s COVID-protocol list on Wednesday.
“John Marino is on the NHL COVID Protocol Related Absences List. Players are on that list for a number of different reasons, and that’s all that I can comment on with respect to that,” Sullivan said.
Here were the team’s lines in practice.
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O'Connor-Jankowski-Lafferty (Sceviour rotated in)
Letang, Joseph and Ruhwedel rotated.
Drew O’Connor is on the team’s taxi squad, but also practiced with the second power play group. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him called back up to the NHL roster by tomorrow morning so that he can play in his fifth straight game. Aston-Reese, though a practice participant, did not take regular drills with any one line.
It’s never really three steps forward and no steps back for the Penguins with regards to injuries, but the returns for Matheson and Letang on the back-line should help mitigate the apparent loss of Marino and at least give one more NHL caliber player to be on the ice. At this point, that’s a sad but major victory for how this season has unfolded.