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UPDATED: Penguins Practice–Malkin and Rust ‘Full Contact’; Pens Add 5 to Protocol

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgnei Malkin, Sidney Crosby

Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust were full contact and full go for the first time on Monday. Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the news and seemed encouraged we could see Rust in-game action if there is a game, this week.

Malkin may not be ready so soon, but Sullivan was also optimistic about Malkin’s sooner-than-later return.

“Rusty and Geno practiced in a full capacity today, full contact. They appeared to do very well. I haven’t had discussions with them–After practice, I had a little bit of a discussion with Geno–but I have not spoken to Rusty. In just in watching their participation, I thought they had strong practices, so that’s a huge step for us,” Sullivan said.”I think Rusty is certainly a reasonable expectation … I don’t think Geno would be ready for that soon. They’re both making significant progress. The fact that they participate in practice in a full capacity today suggests so.”

*PHN will provide a separate and full update on all injured Penguins and COVID protocol players.

We thought Evan Rodrigues would be the only Penguins player in COVID protocol, but that’s not the way things work around the Penguins or in this COVID world. As practice began Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Complex, complete with school kids enjoying their time off to see their heroes (and bang on the glass to elicit a few laughs from players), the Penguins PR put out more bad news.

Tristan Jarry, John Marino, Teddy Blueger, Mike Matheson, and Dominik Simon joined Rodrigues on the COVID protocol list, bringing the Penguins total to six.

Penguins winger Jason Zucker who played in the most recent games but missed the last few practices with “maintenance days,” was not on the ice for practice, either. Sullivan confirmed he will be out week to week with the nagging lower-body injury.

Jake Guentzel was absent for a non-COVID illness but could return as early as Tuesday. Penguins EBUG (emergency backup goalie) Mike Chaisson was in net opposite Casey DeSmith. Stick tap to velvety Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play Josh Getzoff for the ID.

And this concludes the attendance portion of practice. Beuller…Bueller?

The Pittsburgh Penguins schedule is currently in flux. Late Sunday night, the Penguins’ visit to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Wednesday, Dec. 29, was postponed due to COVID issues. Later Monday morning, the National Hockey Now network national reporter and Boston beat writer James Murphy reported the Penguins visit to Ottawa on Dec. 31 was “up in the air.”

And just in case you need visual proof of the Penguins’ practice, the boys were getting after it on the two-man drills. That’s Bryan Rust in a full-participant black jersey who snapped one past DeSmith (bright yellow pads). Chiasson has the all-black Darth Vader look going.

Later in practice, Chiasson made a diving save after a brilliant Malkin feed to Brock McGinn, which elicited stick taps from the boys and a little applause from Brian Dumoulin. Sorry, no video of that, but here’s Rust hitting the twine.

 

The Penguins saved a little fun surprise, which could mean a lot or mean absolutely nothing (we don’t know which) for later in their first practice. Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust comprised the Penguins’ top line with Sidney Crosby. Malkin was on the left, and Rust was on the right, which means both players were on their natural side. However, on the shift before, Malkin was on the right wing. Take it for what you will because of the number of players missing, including Jake Guentzel and Jason Zucker. PHN (this guy) has advocated Malkin take a wing (at least in the beginning of his return) to leave Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger in the middle six and save wear-and-tear on Malkin, at least for a while.

Update: Sullivan’s answer on the matter evolved. Make no mistake, Malkin is a center and Sullivan prefers the 1-2 punch of Crosby-Malkin. Sullivan defined the parameters by which we will see more Crosby-Malkin two-headed monster lines. Malkin won’t be making the switch unless the game dictates it.

“Well, you know, we have used Geno there on occasion over my time as the coach. I wouldn’t anticipate Geno playing the wing on a consistent basis. We really like him at the center ice position. He and Sid have been, in my mind, the best one-two punch in the league for a long time,” Sullivan said. “So it helps us create that certain competitive balance that we think makes our team so hard to play against … that’s always something that’s been part of the conversation that the coaches had or continue to have with respect to situations. If we’re down a goal or depending on how the game goes, if we want to load up a group and put them over the boards that’s the obvious discussion is with those two guys on the same line.”

So, maybe the two-headed monster, but not Malkin-Crosby-Rust unless the game situation dictates.

That’s Malkin camped on the far wall, which becomes the LW when they transitioned to the rush.

 

 

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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William Maloni
William Maloni
7 months ago

I hate the COVID forced postponements, but love the extra time it creates for Rust, Guentzel, and Geno to rehab.

David
David
7 months ago

Since the NHL isn’t going to the Olympics, I assume that these ppd games will be made up during those 3 weeks in February.

Big B
Big B
7 months ago

All fully vaxed and fully boostered, Yah!

Big B
Big B
7 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

No just saying that the NHL should not be testing any asymptomick personel and let the games be played and trust the vax like the NFL.

BIG B
BIG B
7 months ago
Reply to  Big B

Asymptomatic is what i meant and thought i typed.Spell check has ruined me.

Alan Smith
7 months ago

NHL is going to far but Canada seems to cause the problems! The Pens are worth the wait! One of the best teams in the NHL lately! Better than the Steelers! GO Pens!

Big B
Big B
7 months ago
Reply to  Alan Smith

As a Canadian i agree, i live in a province that has 600 cases in total and all are panicking with 93 % vaxed.Fear is spread quickly here.

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