Pittsburgh Penguins winger Dominik Kahun, who returned to practice Thursday in a no-contact capacity, isn’t quite sure whether the concussion he is recovering from is his first – but he now understands the detailed care such injuries receive in North America.
“Three years before (while playing) in Germany,” Kahun said when asked if he had had a concussion before, but then he offered a qualifier. “They didn’t really know if it was a concussion. I took, like, a week off.”
The concussion protocol the NHL and other North American sports and the medical community here employs left him impressed.
“The guys did a great job,” he said. “I’m still taking my time. I want to be 100 percent when I play again.”
While concussion recovery can be fickle, Kahun is optimistic he will return to the lineup soon.
Kahun left the Penguins’ Jan. 19 game against Boston and went into concussion protocol. He declined to say specifically how the injury happened.
He has missed six games, which would have been a higher number if not for the All-Star break and a bye week. He had been skating separately from the club before Thursday.
“I always hope I can play the next game, but today was the first time (at practice) with the non-contact jersey, so I hope soon I’m going to be with a regular jersey and then I can play” soon after, Kahun said.
Coach Mike Sullivan said it’s encouraging Kahun has reached this point and confirmed that the next step is practicing without restrictions.
Kahun was playing a top-six role before he got hurt. His return could make it crowded for wingers on the top two lines.
While winger Jake Guentzel is not expected back during the regular season, the Penguins acquired Jason Zucker this week to at least start off on the top line with Sidney Crosby. Patric Hornqvist joined them Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay, although Dominik Simon – who began the game on the fourth line – also saw time with Crosby and Zucker. Jared McCann and Bryan Rust flanked Evgeni Malkin.
At practice Thursday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Simon was on the top line:
Jason Zucker-Sidney Crosby-Dominik Simon
Jared McCann-Evgeni Malkin-Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese-Teddy Blueger-Brandon Tanev
Sam Lafferty-Andrew Agozzino-Patric Hornqvist
When Kahun returns, the Penguins could have a wealth of options as far as wingers for the top couple lines. With an established third line of Teddy Blueger centering Aston-Reese and Tanev, some of the wingers are going to see diminished ice time.
“Unfortunately,” Kahun said of getting hurt after breaching the top six. “I got the chance there. I think I did pretty good. It’s bad timing for sure, but at least there was the break and I didn’t miss too many games.”
It’s still probably helpful to have the excess, given the high number of injuries the Penguins have endured.