With each day, the Pittsburgh Penguins injury news seems to proliferate to an incredible degree. The latest setback is to energetic winger Patric Hornqvist, who is out longer term because of a lower body injury, coach Mike Sullivan said Tuesday after practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
In a little bit of not-quite-offsetting better injury news, defenseman Justin Schultz returned to practice, although he wore a no-contact jersey and indicated he probably needs a couple more practices before he’s ready to play; and winger Bryan Rust skated on his own before practice.
Hornqvist was injured Monday in a fall during practice, but there was no update on him until Tuesday. He earlier missed seven games because of a lower body injury.
A feisty winger who likes to be disruptive in front of the net during five on five play and on the power play, Hornqvist has six goals, 11 points in 20 games.
His injury marked the third player in four days who got hurt. Rust fell during Friday’s morning skate. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin got hurt in the first minute of Saturday’s loss at St. Louis. And then Hornqvist.
That is in addition to several others who have missed multiple games this season. Also currently out are center and team captain Sidney Crosby and center Nick Bjugstad, who both had core muscle surgery.
Winger Zach Aston-Reese missed Tuesday’s practice because of illness, Sullivan said.
Sullivan said of Rust’s pre-practice skate: “That went pretty well. We’ll see how he progresses.”
Of Aston-Reese, Sullivan said, “It started to come on (Monday), so we thought it was best to keep him home today.
Sullivan said Schultz’s return to practice “was really encouraging.”
Fellow defenseman Jack Johnson concurred.
“It’s just good to see your teammates back out there,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of guys out, so the more guys we can get back, the more exciting it is. It’s good to catch up with those guys, too. We don’t see them for a while.”
Schultz, who also was injured in practice said, “I think I’m ahead of schedule.”
Johnson said other than one season when he was with Columbus – “I remember getting ready for a game, and I didn’t even know everyone’s name,” he said but could not remember which year – he can’t immediately remember a team gutted to much by injuries.
The Penguins are over 100 man-games lost two months into the season and have had injuries to key players and/or players who are out longer term.
Johnson warned that the Penguins can’t consciously guard against injuries in practice or games because that actually could leave them more vulnerable.
“Just take care of yourself. Be a pro,” Johnson said. “Control the things you can control.
“There’s some injuries … bad ice in a morning skate and Rusty goes down in a corner. You can’t control things like that. That’s just one example.”
Schultz said much of the injury epidemic has been unavoidable.
“Everyone’s spending a lot of time in the gym, stretching and making sure everything’s good,” Schultz said. “It’s just really unlucky.”
Even with the addition Tuesday of Stefan Noesen, who was signed to an NHL contract Monday so he could be promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the presence of Joseph Blandisi, who was put through waivers Monday, the Penguins practice short one forward.
The forward lines at practice;
Jake Guentzel-Evgeni Maklin-Dominik Simon
Alex Galchenyuk-Jared McCann-Stefan Noesen
Dominik Kahun-Teddy Blueger-Brandon Tanev
(assistat Mark Recchi)-Joseph Blandisi-Sam Lafferty
The defensive pairings:
Jack Johnson-Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson-John Marino
Juuso Riikola-Chad Ruhwedel
Zach Trotman-Justin Schultz