PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang skated on his own, Friday morning. Per customary process, other players closer to returning, Evgeni Malkin and Chad Ruhwedel skated with the Penguins skills coach Ty Hennes. The situation likely indicates Letang is more than mere days away from a return.
Defenseman Olli Maatta was a full participant again Friday morning. He appears to be on track to return Friday night. He is officially a game-time decision.
As first reported by Pittsburgh Hockey Now, Malkin has been skating with Hennes since Saturday. It is widely believed Malkin suffered a midsection injury, perhaps bruised ribs. Malkin was the 2009 Conn Smythe award winner and has 71 points (21g, 50a) in 66 games this season.
This is the second injury in six weeks which has caused Letang to miss time. He missed 11 games with an upper-body injury following the Stadium Series game on Feb. 23. Letang played nearly 25 minutes Saturday in Dallas but has not skated with the team or coaches since.
This season, Letang has 56 points (16g, 40a) in 63 games.
Sullivan also confirmed winger Zach Aston-Reese has not yet resumed skating, which likely puts a damper on his availability for the playoffs which begin April 10. The Penguins emerging power forward was injured and has not skated since a second-period injury against Boston on March 10.
Aston-Reese was realizing some success playing on the Penguins second line with Malkin and Phil Kessel. Overall, Aston-Reese has 17 points (8g, 9a) in 43 games. He began the season with the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as the Penguins used Daniel Sprong in the lineup.
Ruhwedel will be the Penguins eight healthy defenseman when he returns. He visibly suffered an upper-body against Columbus on Feb. 26.