The Penguins got a dose of good news today when injured forward Jake Guentzel joined the team at practice in “full capacity”, as coach Mike Sullivan called it. Guentzel has been recently ramping up his recovery from skating on his own, to joining the team in a non-contact fashion late last week and now being a full-go to practice coming off an August ankle surgery.
According to the team, this development doesn’t change the initial timeline of Guentzel being expected to miss “about the first five games” as GM Kyle Dubas put it over the summer. To point out one more detail, the Pens’ sixth game of the season is on October 24th, exactly three weeks away from today.
At this point, no one really knows.
“It’s too early to tell. Just kind of have to wait and see,” Guentzel said today. “It’s day by day.”
So while some enthusiasm could be slightly tempered, getting to this point so early on meant it’s all systems go in the rehab process for Guentzel, who let’s not forget will have a lot of motivation to get back out on the ice and have a great year with his upcoming contract negotiations.
Mike Sullivan on Jake Guentzel: "When he's in our lineup, it gives us the ability to bump guys down a little bit. That helps our depth, and it makes our third line stronger, for example. That's the impact I think that he has when he's inserted into our lineup."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 3, 2023
Guentzel being a new but old face coming back today, there also was a brand new addition from the team’s latest pickup. Jansen Harkins made it over from Winnipeg after being claimed yesterday and took part in his first practice with the group. Like every hockey player since time immemorial he touted being a “solid 200-foot player” (though in his case, there is sufficient evidence to make such a claim). Naturally enough, Harkins is excited about his fresh start to make a first impression with a new team after his career bogged down in Winnipeg.
Harkins on his excitement about joining the Penguins: "When you look at the players we have, it's the best in the world. This is a really good team with a chance to win and compete. That's all I want to do is help contribute to a winning culture. I think I can do that here." pic.twitter.com/9leDS3ZjMX— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 3, 2023
Mike Sullivan loves his puck pursuit wingers on the bottom lines, and Harkins does have that. Personally, those great AHL bona-fides and advanced stats are more intriguing, with a clean slate and chance to prove himself anew at the NHL level, Harkins could be worth giving some time to see what the Pens have for themselves.
Mike Sullivan said Jansen Harkins is someone who could factor into the bottom six. "I think that's one of the reasons why Kyle (Dubas) brought him in. He skates really well, he has good size, we think he could potentially help us in the puck pursuit game." https://t.co/g2vYZLiZlb— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 3, 2023
Other notes: It wasn’t all rosy news, P.O Joseph was missing from practice with an undisclosed lower body day-to-day injury. Joseph got cracked by the puck from a few Ottawa shot attempts last night...Surprisingly enough, Ty Smith and Rem Pitlick (and the ever-intriguing Avery Hayes) got called back up from Wilkes-Barre in the rare movement this time of year with players going from minors to the NHL and not the other way around. This was likely done to add numbers and give some NHL players a night off as they get through their last two pre-season games tomorrow and Friday in order to manage the exhibition work loads of the top players who have appeared in the prior two games.