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Penguins Skate: Jason Zucker in Full Contact Jersey, Return Nears

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On Tuesday morning, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jason Zucker was in a regular jersey at the Pittsburgh Penguins morning skate. Such things aren’t always indicative of status because morning skates are often low-impact, safe hockey spaces for rehab.

However, head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Zucker was a full go.

“He was full contact today–full participation. He skated with Ty (Hennes) for 40 minutes before the morning skate. Then he joined the morning skate in full capacity,” Sullivan said. “So, that’s the last hurdle before the return to play–getting him in a game-real environment and getting him full contact. So I think that’s a significant step in the process.”

Zucker, 30, skated for 40 minutes before the skate with skills coach Ty Hennes then stayed for the morning skate in a full-contact sweater. Zucker has missed the last 29 games after core muscle surgery. He chose not to make excuses when he spoke with the media last week, but perhaps his performance was hampered by the injury.

In 31 games, Zucker has only 13 points (6-7-13) and was not an impact player.

When Zucker is activated, Brock McGinn will be the last Penguins regular who remains out of the lineup. The Penguins also acquired injured defenseman Nathan Beaulieu at the NHL trade deadline, who won’t be healthy until the playoffs. GM Ron Hextall indicated Beaulieu was merely a depth acquisition.

On Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins face the New York Rangers at PPG Paints Arena. Sullivan did not indicate Zucker would be in the lineup, as he likely will take more time to get into game shape.

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Crazyhorse87
Crazyhorse87
8 months ago

I feel Zucker is more important than most people think, you can see when Crosby and Malkin aren’t 100%. There are elements to his game I like, maybe now that he’s more healthy, we might be able to see his worthiness. He may be the Bonino for the third line, big priced players don’t have to always the top six, you can balance out all four lines to your benefit. You have more older players, so the balancing act becomes a lot more necessary.

Steve
Steve
8 months ago
Reply to  Crazyhorse87

I agree. His speed and effort can be disruptive even if he isn’t scoring. And before people get too worked up, that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand that he is paid to score. But worry about that problem in the offseason. As people get healthy, who doesn’t think this team will be better with Zucker alongside Carter and Kapanen and then McGinn alongside Blueger and Boyle/Heinen? Who knows, if Zucker or Kapanen catch fire, then you are looking at Rodrigues on the third line with Boyle/Heinen/Zohorna as depth and support. That’s a pretty deep and balanced group of forwards.… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve
Lars Nelson
Lars Nelson
8 months ago

Zucker has so far had a very raw deal here in Pittsburgh. He has played very few games with Malkin where both players were healthy. Has he played even 10 games where they were both actually healthy? He was an impact player in terms of what he did on the ice even when he wasn’t scoring. If he stays healthy, he could be an unbelievably important player by the time the playoffs roll around.

Ethan
8 months ago
Reply to  Lars Nelson

And not sure he should play very many more games with Malkin. Chemistry may not simply be there. I advocated putting Rust on 2nd line the day before the Pens actually did–I couldn’t believe they actually did it myself–and I advocated trying Zucker on top line with Guentzel and Crosby. I still maintain this is a better balance of lines. Frees up RR for regular 2nd line duty as well. As for some saying Zuck can be like Bonino on 3rd–I doubt it–completely different players–one religiously ate rubber on the way to two cups then left for his big pay… Read more »

Rob
Rob
8 months ago

I am interested to see what line he goes on when he gets back. I hope Rakell sticks with Malkin and Rust though

Timm
Timm
8 months ago

Think back to when Zucker joined the team and played with Crosby for a short period. He scored a handful of goals and then never saw first line play again. I understand that’s a highly coveted spot and nearly everyone shines with Crosby, but my point is… It’s all about chemistry. I haven’t seen it with Zuck and Malkin, so I hope he finds it with Carter and Kapanen. That would be a STELLAR line if they find chemistry! Remember the one game Zucker played in Dec before reinjury? He had 2 goals. The dude can make a difference. Just… Read more »