CRANBERRY, Pa — The second season may not yet have a schedule. Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins began their 2021 NHL playoff preparations on Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Complex and included one important blue line cog. Mike Matheson appeared to be a full-go at practice.
Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin who missed most of the third period on Saturday after tweaking his lower-body injury (likely a knee injury), also skated at practice. Malkin showed no ill-effects and was at full speed.
Brandon Tanev was again in a full-contact sweater. PHN will update the story after practice when head coach Mike Sullivan advises if Tanev has yet been cleared.
And, Evan Rodrigues who has been out for a couple of weeks after being hit on the boot by Mike Matheson’s shot also skated.
Not that it matters, yet. The Pittsburgh Penguins are probably at least six days away from their first playoff game against either the New York Islanders or Boston Bruins.
Per the Penguins, Monday was a combination of on-ice and off-ice work. So, absent players likely worked out off the ice. Also, the Penguins received their second vaccination shot on Saturday night (instead of a champagne celebration, we suppose), so a few were probably dealing with a bit of (worthwhile) fatigue.
On Saturday, the NHL also relaxed its regulations for “fully vaccinated” teams, as defined by 85% of the team receiving the vaccine. Head coach Mike Sullivan said the team was well over the 85% threshold.
At practice, Penguins defenseman whizzed around the ice with 16 teammates, including three goalies. The Penguins’ top line, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, were not present on the ice. Nor were notables Jeff Carter, Teddy Bleuger Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin or Cody Ceci.
In addition to regulars such as Matheson and Malkin, Jared McCann, Tanev, and Marcus Pettersson were on the ice, too.
Skills coach Ty Hennes could be heard barking orders and creating drills in the Penguins uptempo practice.
On Sunday night, the Penguins recalled goaltender Emil Larmi and defensemen Juuso Riikola and Yannick Weber from the taxi squad. All three participated in the on-ice work.
Matheson was injured on May 1 against the Washington Capitals when goalie Tristan Jarry’s clearing attempt hit him in the face, just below the visor. Last week, Sullivan confirmed Matheson did not require surgery.
Also at practice, uptempo, heavy base music blared over the speakers. That is an unusual occurance.
PHN will update the story after Sullivan and the players speak to the media.