For the first time this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a full contingent at practice Wednesday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. That includes the three players most recently in COVID-19 protocol — wingers Danton Heinen and Zach Aston-Reese, and backup goaltender Casey DeSmith.
The only player absent was forward Drew O’Connor, who is out longer term because of an undisclosed injury but who, while promising, might not have cracked the top 12 forwards with everyone else available anyway, so it can easily still be called a full house.
Interestingly, goalie Louis Domingue not only was still around and at practice but also seemed to work in the secondary role behind Tristan Jarry. That could be because DeSmith needs to work his way back from the protocol, or perhaps the team is giving Domingue a look at the primary backup spot.
DeSmith has struggled this season, while Domingue had a strong showing in his only start this season and Penguins debut, a 40-save showing in a 2-1 overtime win Jan. 15 at San Jose while DeSmith was unavailable.
In addition, Aston-Reese and Heinen worked on a fifth line with Radim Zohorna, again possibly because they are still working their way back.
The full house came a day after the Penguins returned Anthony Angello, Filip Hallander and Kasper Bjorkqvist to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
Before Wednesday, at least one regular and at times a handful of players, were out because of injuries and/or COVID-19 protocol.
After going 4-2 in a road trip that took them to the West Coast, the Penguins return home Thursday for a game against the Ottawa Senators.
The forward lines looked like this:
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker-Evgeni Malkin-Kasperi Kapanen
Dominik Simon-Jeff Carter-Evan Rodrigues
Brian Boyle-Teddy Blueger-Brock McGinn
Zach Aston-Reese–Radim Zohorna-Danton Heinen
The defensive pairings:
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson-John Marino
Mike Matheson-Chad Ruhwedel