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Schultz ‘Full Out’ At Practice, Could Play Tuesday

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Pittsburgh Penguins Justin Schultz

As much as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz has enjoyed watching the team play, he’s ready to trade in being a spectator for playing again. That could happen as soon as Tuesday.

Schultz, who has missed the past 15 games because of a lower-body injury, practiced with the Penguins at Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Not only was it his first time joining his teammates since he got hurt, but he also was allowed full contact with no restrictions.

“I felt good,” Schultz said. “Now it’s just a matter of making sure I’m ready to step back in. It’s still at a point in the year where there’s no need to rush things if you’re not ready. Hopefully, that’s sooner rather than later.”

The Penguins’ next two games are against Philadelphia, but they are 10 days apart – Tuesday on the road and Jan. 31 at home before the All-Star break and the team’s bye week.

Schultz is pretty much assured of returning in one of those games.

“Obviously hoping for the sooner one, but you’ve got to make sure you’re 100 percent,” he said.

“I was full-out (in practice). We’ll see. Obviously, I want to play, but it’s about being smart, too.”

The Penguins did not do drills that involved line combinations or defense pairs, so it’s not clear how Schultz’s return might change things, but he did get in some power-play time with the second unit.

When he returns, he will step in as one of the team’s better two-way defensemen.

“It would be a huge boost,” coach Mike Sullivan said.

Schultz had been skating separately from the team for a couple weeks. Initially, he seemed tentative and limited.

“The last couple weeks it definitely ramped up,” he said. “It was definitely a little slower than I wanted at the start. Once I got on the ice, every day it felt better. It’s feeling pretty good right now.”

While he was out, Schultz spent time like so many of the team’s fans – enjoying the show.

“It’s so fun to watch them,” he said of his teammates. “They work so hard. They’re so hard to play against. Playing with speed. So tough for teams to defend us, and our guys do a great job defending as well.”

 

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Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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E.J.
E.J.
2 years ago

Great news. I know Schultz is not a fan or media favorite locally, but I consider him to be an underrated part of this team. The bottom pair have done as well as can be expected, but an upgrade is needed there.

donttreadonme
donttreadonme
2 years ago
Reply to  E.J.

Numerous fans that I encounter in-person and via sites like Pittsburgh Hockey Now are drawing this conclusion. I couldn’t disagree more with the assertion that line-up upgrades are “needed”. Should the Penguins consider deals for improvements? Yes, this is always the case in terms of managing a pro team. However, the suggestion that the current line-up is lacking is a total misrepresentation. The Penguins have lost in excess of 200 man-games to injury. This includes top-end talent the likes of which would paralyze every other NHL team. I don’t believe it’s an accident that these coaches and this line-up has… Read more »

E.J
E.J
2 years ago

If you think Riikola and Ruhwedel are a Stanley Cup-quality bottom pair, then I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news . . . @SadlyMistaken

E.J.
E.J.
2 years ago

If you think Riikola and Ruhwedel are a Stanley Cup-quality bottom pair, then I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news . . . #SadlyMistaken

donttreadonme
donttreadonme
2 years ago

Did you read what I wrote? Did you comprehend what I wrote? Do you have a cogent response to what I wrote?