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Rust and Schultz Practice, Game-Time Decisions for Friday

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Pittsburgh Penguins Bryan Rust

It was just bad luck. Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust said his lower body injury suffered in practice last week was just that as he spoke after his first practice since suffering the injury. Both Rust and Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz were full participants in practice on Thursday. It was the first time either had been a full go since leaving the Penguins lineup.

The Penguins face Phil Kessel and the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night. Kessel won Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017 and was a terminal fan favorite. Rust laughingly admitted that would be enough motivation to get healthy.

“Yeah, I think so. It will be fun,” Rust said. “It will be weird seeing him not in the black and gold.”

Rust, the Penguins speedy winger has been missed in the lineup as the Penguins lost two of the last three games but did beat St. Louis 3-0 on Wednesday. Rust, 27, was a mainstay with the Penguins top lines this season including with Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel during captain Sidney Crosby’s absence which is expected to last into January.

“You just kinda shake your head. It’s bad luck losing an edge. It’s one of the things that happen. You can’t be too upset about it,” Rust said Thursday.

Shortly before practice, sources whispered to PHN that Rust could be ready this weekend. Rust seemed to confirm that thinking.

“I’ll just try to keep it simple in my first few shifts, but be thankful I didn’t miss too much time here,” he said.

Schultz will also be a sight for sore eyes if he is able to play on Friday. The Penguins had a patchwork defense with their seventh, eighth and ninth defensemen in uniform. Usual Schultz partner Marcus Pettersson played with Chad Ruhwedel in a top-four role Wednesday night. Juuso Riikola and Zach Trotman filled the third pairing.

Schultz has eight points (2g, 6a) in 21 games this season. He has been the go-to defender at the top of the Penguins power play.

Bryan Rust has been an offensive dynamo this season, at least when healthy. He missed the first five weeks of the season with an upper-body injury suffered after blocking a shot in the final preseason game, and has missed the last week. In 14 games, Rust has popped nine goals and eight assists. He has been one of the Penguins most productive forwards and his line assignments have reflected that.

Also Thursday, defenseman Jack Johnson was again absent. He is battling an illness and the Penguins are hoping to avoid the illness being as contagious as injuries. He stayed home on Thursday, per head coach Mike Sullivan.

Defenseman Kris Letang was given a maintenance day after logging heavy minutes in the last several games.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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