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Letang back on ice with team, Pens get some sick players back

Usually gameday skates don’t have much drama or excitement, but today’s morning skate had it for the Penguins with several positive developments

St Louis Blues v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins’ practice on Monday left them with more questions than answers about how the team would be looking for tonight’s game against Columbus. All of Ryan Poehling (injury), Sidney Crosby (illness), Evgeni Malkin (illness) and Casey DeSmith (illness) were absent.

The morning game skate offered some welcome returns. Malkin, who has been taking most of the gameday skates this season, was back on the ice this morning. DeSmith was also out there. Crosby, who has not been a regular for the morning skate on the day of a game, remained absent, perhaps conspicuously so considering he missed yesterday.

In the happiest sighting, defenseman Kris Letang was on the ice and doing some drills with a returning Poehling and assistant coach Ty Hennes prior to the team session. Letang wasn’t just going through the motions at half speed like sometimes players do when are working back, as can be seen in the video, Letang was going through drills looking mighty sharp to the eye.

Letang has been on the ice regularly since suffering a stroke last week, but it was described as “little twirls” mostly for his own personal mental benefit to get on the ice and skate in non-hockey formats. All the reports from coach Mike Sullivan have indicated the medical testing on Letang has come back favorably, and the team has yet to even place Letang on the injured reserve (let alone the long term IR) in another possible predictive indicator of his status.

It remains to be seen when Letang will be cleared to return for games, and it has only been eight days since he suffered the stroke, but all signs since then have been as positive and encouraging as possible.

The big question for tonight will be regarding Crosby’s availability, and to a lesser degree whether or not Poehling can shrug off his minor injury and play. Without both, Pittsburgh would only have 11 healthy forwards and no cap space to add a player from the minor leagues. If one can play, they will have a full compliment of players, but obviously potentially being without the team’s leading goal and point scorer in Crosby would create a massive absence for tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets.

We’ll update this with Mike Sullivan’s post-practice comments, even though his tendencies likely will be short on details and list all players (besides Letang) as game time decisions.

Update: looks good for Crosby and Malkin, Poehling is out. The Pens will be able to field a normal lineup if those players are feeling well enough to play tonight.

And while nice to see Letang take another step, the Pens’ coach said the defender’s status remains the same in his recovery.