Top-line left winger Jake Guentzel participated in Pittsburgh Penguins practice Tuesday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, a day after he was absent because of what the team termed a non-COVID illness.
Guentzel has missed the past five games. Also since he last played, there has been a revamped holiday break, plus three postponed games.
At practice, he skated in his normal spot alongside center Sidney Crosby.
Getting Guentzel back — the Penguins’ next scheduled game is Friday at Ottawa — would be a boon, not only because he leads the team with 15 goals and 27 points, in 24 games, but also because the Penguins have six players in COVID-19 protocol.
The Penguins on Tuesday recalled four players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to form a taxi squad, and three of them — forward Kasper Bjorkqvist, defenseman Juuso Riikola and goaltender Louis Domingue — were on the ice for practice.
The fourth player recalled to the taxi squad, defenseman P.O. Joseph, tested positive for COVID-19 in the hours before practice. There was no word whether the Penguins would recall a different defenseman. As someone on Twitter astutely observed, things with COVID-19 are so fluid that the Penguins might need to develop a taxi squad for their taxi squad.
Also practicing in what appears to be full participation and full contact for the second straight day were center Evgeni Malkin and winger Bryan Rust.
Rust, according to coach Mike Sullivan, is nearing a return, perhaps as soon as the Penguins’ next game, from a lower-body injury. He has been out since Nov. 24.
Malkin is not as close as Rust to playing but is nearing his season debut after knee surgery in June.
Here are the lines and pairings:
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen-Jeff Carter-Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese–Drew O’Connor-Brock McGinn
Evgeni Malkin/Kasper Bjorkqvist-Brian Boyle-Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson-Chad Ruhwedel
Juuso Riikola-Mark Friedman