Practices have produced better news than games lately for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that continued Thursday.
The Penguins, who take a four-game losing streak into Friday’s game at Anaheim, had their most robust attendance in a long time at practice Thursday in El Segundo, Calif., according to several reports from there.
Defensemen Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery) and John Marino (facial surgery), who both joined practice Tuesday in no-contact jerseys, were in regular jerseys Thursday for the first time since they got hurt. “Obviously, the fact that they’re participating in full contact, I think that’s real encouraging from our standpoint,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. He has a sense of when they might play, but he declined to make that public.
Forward Jared McCann, who missed practice Tuesday and then Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Los Angeles because of an upper body injury, was back on the ice. He initially wore a no-contact jersey, but switched to a regular jersey and participated in line rushes as the fourth-line center. Sullivan said McCann is day to day and will be a game-time decision Friday.
Also wearing a no-contact jersey was center Nick Bjugstad, who joined his teammates for the first time since he had core muscle surgery. He had been skating on his own.
“It was amazing,” Bjugstad said of practicing. “I woke up (Thursday) morning with a smile on my face. It’s been a long time coming. It definitely makes you appreciate the game. … Hopefully, I’m back soon.
“Obviously didn’t expect to be out this long, but what are you going to do? You’ve got to keep your head down and keep going. I tried to stay positive.”
Dumoulin has been out since he sustained cut tendons Nov. 30, Marino since took a puck to the face Feb. 6. Bjugstad last played Nov. 15.
“It’s great to have all those guys out there,” Sullivan said. “Hopefully, it’s an indication of them all getting healthy and giving us an opportunity to have a full lineup.”
It has been a season of wide-ranging injuries for the Penguins, with several regulars hurt and some needing weeks or months to recover.
At this point, the only injured players not practicing are winger Jake Guentzel (shoulder surgery), who is expected to be out past the end of the regular season, and winger Zach Aston-Reese, who has missed five games because of an upper body injury.
The lines and pairings:
Jason Zucker-Sidney Crosby-Conor Sheary
Bryan Rust-Evgeni Malkin-Patric Hornqvist
Patric Marleau-Teddy Blueger-Brandon Tanev
Dominik Simon/Sam Lafferty-Jared McCann-Evan Rodrigues
Jack Johnson-Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson-Justin Schultz
Juuso Riikola-Chad Ruhwedel