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Penguins Practice: Guentzel Back; Taxi Squad Present Minus Joseph (COVID)

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Pittsburgh Penguins Casey DeSmith, Jake Guentzel

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

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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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Ethan
Ethan
26 days ago

I thought Teddy was in protocol–but this shows him on 4th line–is he not?

Dan Kingerski
Admin
Dan Kingerski(@dkingerski)
26 days ago
Reply to  Ethan

Ethan, you’re correct. Habit typo. We corrected. Thanks!

Alan Smith
26 days ago

Let’s play some hockey! The gang looks to be back together soon! Game day?

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