Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan sounded optimistic Monday that injured goaltender Matt Murray would return soon, as would stalwart right wing Patric Hornqvist.
“(Hornqvist) will not play tonight. He’s day-to-day, but he skated this morning. We believe he’s making progress,” Sullivan said.
Hornqvist has missed most of the last two games. He left after the first period, Thursday when the Penguins beat the New York Islanders, 6-2. Hornqvist took part in the morning skate, Saturday in Ottawa including line rushes but was not able to play Saturday night. According to reports, Horqnvist made a brief appearance, Monday morning.
Hornqvist has been one of the outspoken leaders on and off this ice, this season. The constant net-front presence and thorn to opponents has 19 points (12g, 7a) in 24 games this season. Hornqvist set a high water mark in his Penguins tenure last season with 29 goals. In the locker room, Hornqvist has been an obstinate optimist and leader despite the Penguins struggles.
Hornqvist declared “This is the turning point” after his hat trick last Tuesday against Colorado. The Penguins are 1-0-1 since then.
Goaltender Matt Murray has not yet had the bounce-back season he and the organization hoped. In 11appearancess, the goalie has an anemic .877 save percentage and 4.08 goals against average. His 4-5-1 record is indicative of his and the team’s struggles.
Murray skated before morning skate, Monday then stayed for the full skate.
“(Murray) joined the team practice today for the first time in a non-contact fashion. He’s making significant progress as well,” Sullivan said. However, according to Sullivan, the Penguins compressed schedule in December is making it more difficult for Murray to find practice time. “If you look at our schedule, beginning tonight, we have eight games in 13 days. I believe right now on our schedule there is one or two scheduled practices.”
“Logistically, (the schedule) makes it more of a challenge because ideally, we like to get these guys in a team setting before we put them back in game scenarios,” said Sullivan. “But in this instance, based on the realities of our schedule, that’s going to be a little more difficult.”
Backup goalie Casey DeSmith (8-4-4) has to this point outplayed Murray. DeSmith has posted a .923 save percentage and 2.43 goals against average in 19 appearances.