Bryan Rust made the short trip to Buffalo for the Pittsburgh Penguins one-game road trip through the typically snowcapped city. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan offered several injury updates including on Zach Aston-Reese which did not offer much encouragement the Penguins will be at full strength any time soon.
Sullivan spoke after the morning skate.
“We brought Rusty on the trip because he’s getting close. We wanted to get him around the team, get him in the practice,” Sullivan said. “He’s feeling really good. Obviously, he’s in a non-contact jersey, but his status is day to day. He’s close.”
Rust had earned a bump to the Penguins top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel before his injury. In 62 games this season, Rust scored 31 points (17g, 14a).
Unfortunately for the Penguins, their other injuries are not progressing as quickly, including another winger who earned a bump into the top-six: Aston-Reese, who is further from returning than previously thought.
“I made a mistake the other day, (Aston-Reese) is longer-term. He’s not-day-to-day and so his status will be longer-term,” Sullivan conceded before emphatically stating Aston-Reese will return before the end of the season. “Yes. He does not need surgery.”
Despite most frequent fourth line duty, Aston-Reese has 23 points (12g, 11a) in 59 games this season. His complete game and improved skating made him a fit on the Penguins second line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. This is the second time this season Aston-Reese will miss significant time with an injury. He also suffered a broken hand during a fight with Florida forward Colton Sceviour.
Penguins defensemen Kris Letang and Olli Maatta did not make the trip to Buffalo. Each skated Thursday morning with the Penguins skills coach, Ty Hennes.
Letang suffered an upper-body injury against Philadelphia in the Stadium Series game on Feb. 23 and has not played since. Olli Maatta also suffered an upper-body injury a week prior, also against Philadelphia.
The Penguins will have eight NHL defensemen and Zach Trotman, who has acquitted himself well since being pressed into NHL duty following an injury to extra defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, just days after Letang was injured.