CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Pittsburgh Penguins forward Derick Brassard has what would appear to be a good chance to return from a lower-body injury Saturday for a game at Ottawa, and given the circumstances, there was no talk Friday of whether he would play center or move to a winger spot.
Not with top center Sidney Crosby expected to miss his second game in a row because of a upper-body injury. And not when the team is on a 1-6-1 slide.
Brassard, if he plays, will be in his comfort zone on one of the top two lines.
“One of the things that we talked about when we acquired Brass (last season) was this very scenario,” coach Mike Sullivan said Friday. “To be able to have a guy that’s as talented as he is and has a track record of being a proven top-six centericeman in this league is encouraging from our standpoint.”
Brassard practiced with the team Friday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Center, the first time he has skated with the team since he got hurt Oct. 25 at Calgary.
“I’m pretty close (to being cleared),” Brassard said. “I’ll see how I feel (Saturday) and we’ll go from there. I think there’s a good chance, but I have to talk to everyone, and it all depends on how I feel (Saturday). Probably going to be a game-time decision.”
One of the narratives surrounding Brassard since the Penguins acquired him to be their third-line center is whether he is a good fit with the club in general. He also has dealt with at least a couple injuries, and spent a little time before he got hurt this season trying out left wing.
Friday, he skated only at center, while Evgeni Malkin, as expected, served as the top-line center. Crosby skated on his own before practice but is expected to be out at least another game or two.
The Penguins shuffled lines and defensive pairings at practice, but one intriguing look was Brassard between Jake Guentzel and sniper Phil Kessel.
Brassard, who has a goal and four assists in eight games, has missed the past nine games. He had been skating on his own for several days, including Friday, before joining practice.
“I had a period of time that I was producing offense but nothing was going in, and when I got hurt we had a good game in Calgary,” he said. “Now I have to start from scratch, go out there with an open mind and just try to play free and have fun.”
He has been listed as day-to-day, but it stretched longer than that might indicate.
“It’s been a long three weeks,” Brassard said. “A lot of hard work of rehab to try to come back and help. I think the hardest part is just to watch and not be able to help out.
“Maybe I can come and try and help this team to win.”
Cullen fined for tripping
Penguins center Matt Cullen was fined $1,000 by the NHL department of player safety for what it called “a dangerous trip” of Tampa Bay’s J.T. Miller late in the second period Thursday.
Cullen got a minor penalty while the Penguins already were shorthanded, and Brayden Point scored twice during the ensuing five-on-three stretch.