It looks as if reinforcements are on the way for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have lost three straight going into their game Saturday night against the Stars in Dallas.
Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad, two of their four injured prominent forwards, could return. Both practiced Friday at American Airlines Arena and took regular spots during line rushes. They officially are game-time decisions, “but it certainly looked encouraging watching them in practice,” coach Mike Sullivan said.
Alex Galchenyuk also practiced but apparently just rotated in some on the lines, while Evgeni Malkin remains out of practice. Sullivan said Galchenyuk will not return Saturday but “is getting real close.”
The lines and defensive pairs at practice, with thanks to Sam Kasan of the Penguins staff:
— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 25, 2019
Rust is looking to make his season debut after he got hit in the the left hand blocking a shot during the Penguins’ final preseason game.
“It feels great (after) getting so close to the regular season and getting that unfortunate injury,” Rust said. “I’m definitely excited to be back.”
Because of the area his was injured, Rust has been able to skate for a while.
“It was definitely nice to be out on the ice and keep my conditioning up,” he said.
Rust said he will add padding to his glove to help protect the hand, at least initially, but he has no reservations about continuing to block shots, something that along with speed and versatility helps define his game.
“I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t do that,” he said.
Bjugstad played in only the first two games of the season.
“You don’t want to start the season off with an injury, so I will definitely be excited to go tomorrow if I do,” Bjugstad said.
He was impressed with his teammates’ recent five-game winning streak and the efficient style of play they adopted while key players were injured. The Penguins have been mostly happy with the way they have played even during the three more recent losses.
“These guys are playing the right way,” Bjugstad said. “I think that’s something for me to jump into and have that mindset they’ve had. … When you play well defensively and everyone has trust in each other like they have, opportunities come. … Definitely want to come in and try to contribute to that energy and that way they’re playing.”
Galchenyuk and Malkin are dealing with unspecified lower-body injuries. Malkin, who has missed eight games, has not practiced.
Galchenyuk, who has also missed eight games, also had a separate medical situation – one report said it was related to a spider bite – during his recovery.
“I had a very bad allergic reaction, and when I got to the hospital the doctors told me I got bit by whatever it could be,” Galchenyuk said. “It wasn’t official that it was a spider or anything in particular. I just had a crazy allergic reaction.”
He added that the problem did not interfere with his rehab.
Adam Johnson, one of the players brought up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to help fill in for the injured players, himself remains out.