PITTSBURGH — Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan announced Bryan Rust would be a game-time decision Sunday night when the Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers at PPG Paints Arena, but defenseman Kris Letang is still out.
Saturday, Pittsburgh Hockey Now learned some members of the Penguins organization expected Rust to play Sunday night but each expectation expressed was also tempered with just a little ambiguity.
Rust was a full participant in practice Friday but couldn’t commit to a timetable. Pittsburgh Hockey Now was told Saturday the expectation from some is Rust will return from the upper-body injury he suffered on Feb. 26 when he was injured in the first period of the Penguins win over Columbus.
Letang is still out with an undisclosed upper-body injury he said was unrelated to his 2017 neck surgery. Letang was also a full participant in practice Friday and will make the upcoming four-game road trip with the team.
Before his injury, Rust was elevated to the Penguins top line right wing beside Sidney Crosby. This season, Rust has 31 points (17g, 14a) in 62 games. He has five points (3g, 2a) in his last eight games. Rust has seen significant time beside Crosby and second line center Evgeni Malkin, this season. Though Mike Sullivan didn’t tip his hand where Rust may be reinserted.
“It depends how we want to use him,” smirked Sullivan.
Friday, Rust said he progressed, “a little faster than expected. When I first got into it, it didn’t feel very good then but it’s something I’m taking day by day now.”
Sunday could be the day. Rust was initially thought to be out long term but made the trip with the team to Buffalo
“I think everyone thought it was worse, so I was fortunate,” Rust said.
Rust’s reinsertion into the lineup will give the Penguins a pair of speedy wingers capable of playing on the top line. Winger Jared McCann has recently become a mainstay as the left wing on Crosby’s line as Jake Guentzel has flipped to the right side.