After a day off on Sunday, the Penguins were back on the ice at their practice facility to prep for what will be a busy and important week ahead. Unfortunately, though, there wasn’t a full compliment of players:
The Penguins are just running three forward lines during rushes:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) April 4, 2022
Boyle-Blueger-Rodrigues (Zohorna rotating in)
And it appears the defensemen are rotating.
The top two lines remained unchanged from Saturday’s game, most notably with Jeff Carter continuing to play wing on Evgeni Malkin’s line.
After practice, it was revealed the missing players (Danton Heinen, Kasperi Kapanen and Anthony Angello) were absent due to a non-COVID illness.
Coach said the other three guys who missed practice - Kapanen, Heinen and Angello - are sick with non-COVID illnesses, and "we're hoping they'll feel better in the morning."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) April 4, 2022
The team can give the players a bit more time and then determine if any emergency call-ups will be needed from the AHL to round out a lineup for tomorrow’s clash against Colorado. With Zohorna around, the team would need two of the three to be available for a full lineup for tomorrow or else have to bring a player or two up if necessary.
Sullivan also discussed forward Jason Zucker, who left during his return game after taking a nasty spill on Thursday night and was unable to play on Saturday.
Sullivan said he talked to Zucker this morning, "and his spirits were really good. He's feeling better. We'll see where it goes. But he was in much better spirits and he was much more encouraged when I saw him."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) April 4, 2022
This would match very closely in tone to what Zucker posted on his Instagram last night as he posted to recap his return to playing in Minnesota. Zucker also said, “thank you for all the well wishes and concern over the last few days. I’m feeling better and hope to be back in the lineup soon.”
Of course “soon” doesn’t narrow down what could mean a wide array of actual time, but it does look like the worst case scenario of a significant injury has been avoided. Zucker remained with the team on the road trip after his injury, and was not observed to be using crutches or having any obvious signs of injury like that or a walking boot in Colorado on Saturday.
With the way Zucker twisted and went down, and couldn’t get off the ice under his own power there had to be some damage done, but the degree remains publicly unknown.
After practice, Zucker was seen on skates to get some work in on his own with the Pens’ skills coach.
Jason Zucker is skating in a track suit with Ty Hennes after practice. That’s got to be a good sign. pic.twitter.com/2Ze4Cmly0Z— Mike DeFabo (@MikeDeFabo) April 4, 2022
Regardless of what Sullivan offers tomorrow when more information has been promised, as usual this time of year (or, any time of year really) what the coach offers likely won’t be as important as seeing Zucker already back on the ice to re-start the all too familiar process of individual workouts again.