CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel who rejoined the Penguins Sunday after a conditioning stint with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (five points in five games), practiced Monday with the full squad.
Ruhwedel’s return to the team, though he remained on the 23-man roster through his conditioning stint means the Penguins again have eight healthy defensemen on the daily roster. Justin Schultz, who suffered a fractured leg on Oct. 13 resumed skating Saturday, as well. Schultz is expected to return in February.
It seems unlikely Ruhwedel will crack the lineup soon, however. Jamie Oleksiak and Juuso Riikola have been vying for the sixth spot, and Ruhwedel hasn’t played an NHL game since Nov. 19. Sunday night, Riikola made the start over Oleksiak who recently returned to the lineup after suffering a concussion during a fight with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson.
In 11 games this season, Ruhwedel has not scored a point and is a minus-8. The 28-year-old defenseman is in his third season with the Penguins. IN 89 career games with the Penguins, Ruhwedel has 26 points (11g, 15a). He is one of only two healthy right-handed defensemen on the Penguins roster. Kris Letang is the other.
The Penguins host the Florida Panthers Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena before embarking on a five-game west coast road trip and the All-Star break. The Penguins loss Sunday night rendered them two points behind the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Metro Division. The Penguins are in a tight battle with Washington, Columbus, and the New York Islanders. The four teams are separated by only four points.