CRANBERRY — Two of the Pittsburgh Penguins rehabbing forwards were on the ice to begin practice Friday in regular sweaters. Bryan Rust re-joined the team in a regular sweater after skating in a non-contact jersey last week. Jesse Puljujarvi, who is on a free-agent tryout deal that has gone past the 10-day team-sponsored limit, also did not wear a non-contact jersey.
However, they participated in separate drills with the Penguins goalies as the team segmented practice using both rinks at the UPMC Lemieux Complex. While Rust and Puljujarvi worked on drills at one end of Rink 1, Sidney Crosby and Reilly Smith fed saucer passes for one-timers.
To give the pair space, many players warmed up on the second rink, including most of the Penguins’ bottom-six forwards and third defense pairs.
Puljujarvi’s participation is significant as the player rehabs from the double hip resurfacing surgery he underwent over the summer. He signed a free-agent tryout deal with the Penguins on Dec. 10. However, NHL rules state that after 10 days, a player may continue to participate in the tryout, but at his own expense.
The player may participate in all team activities except games.
Puljujarvi is 19 days into his tryout.
Update: Puljujarvi did not participate in line rushes toward the end of practice.
On Dec. 17, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan admitted the Penguins knew it would be a process to get the large forward ready.
“He has been working with our strength and conditioning guys,” said Sullivan. “He has not been on the ice for the last little while,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, he went through major surgery and is trying to work through that process. We had anticipated that when he (signed).”
Rust is on long-term injured reserve with an upper-body injury. He’s been out of the lineup since leaving the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 6. He has 20 points, including 10 goals in 22 games, and is a plus-13.
The story is breaking. Pittsburgh Hockey Now will update the story after practice when Sullivan provides an update on both players.
UPDATE: Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Rust and Puljujarvi were full participants. Sullivan indicated Puljujarvi will continue to rehab and Friday was merely a step in the ongoing process. Rust was a full-go but will not be available to the Penguins when they host the Blues on Saturday.
Matt Nieto remains off the ice. Radim Zohorna was sick and excused from practice.
The Penguins began full-squad practice on Rink 1 shortly after 11 a.m.
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Rickard Rakell
Reilly Smith-Evgeni Malkin-Drew O’Connor
BRYAN RUST-Lars Eller-Valtteri Puustinen
Jansen Harkins-Noel Acciari-Jeff Carter
Spare: Vinnie Hinostroza
Marcus Pettersson-Kris Letang
Ryan Graves-Erik Karlsson
P.O Joseph-Chad Ruhwedel/John Ludvig