The boys got a good skate on Wednesday afternoon in Florida. No, there will be no Evgeni Malkin unhealthy scratch from excessive sunburn moments on this go-round as the Pittsburgh Penguins cleansed themselves of the emotional win on Tuesday night over Tampa Bay but also tried to develop a little more chemistry and execution.
They executed very well until the final seven minutes of 6v5.
But maybe some vitamin C or D could help Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese, progress after his 10-day COVID protocol absence.
“I felt really badly for Zach because I thought his conditioning was really good coming into camp. And then he misses 10 days– and on and on top of that–he was symptomatic,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “So it wasn’t like he had the ability to work out at his home through that COVID protocol.”
Aston-Reese is still a question mark for Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.
Guentzel is probably a step ahead of Aston-Reese. Both participated in practice on Wednesday.
“Jake was different. Jake worked out through his COVID protocols. So, that’s what I mean when I say their circumstances are very different. It’s unfortunate,” Sullivan said. “It’s something that’s out of our control. We’ve just got to try to react to it the right way. Zach’s working really hard. Jake’s working really hard, and we’ll try to get these guys back in the fold…”
The Penguins re-assigned Anthony Angello to the WBS Penguins on Wednesday as they recalled defenseman P.O. Joseph to fill the spot vacated by Mike Matheson, who is day-to-day with a nagging lower-body injury.
One less forward may indicate the Penguins and Sullivan expect at least one of Guentzel and Aston-Reese to play. Of course, being re-assigned doesn’t mean Angello left town, either.
PHN graded Friedman highly in the Pittsburgh Penguins first game of the season. Head coach Mike Sullivan did, too,
“I thought that was one of Friedman’s best games as a Pittsburgh Penguin. I thought he played really well,” said Sullivan. “You can see his mobility, his ability to jump into the offense. He made some plays in the offensive zone…”
Friedman admitted he was feeling it on Tuesday night, too.
“Confidence. I felt really confident out there last night…the puck was finding me, and guys were doing a good job getting me the puck as well,” Friedman said. “And when I’m skating, I feel like I get the puck more on my stick, and I’m creating more with my feet. So that definitely helps my game. Getting up in the play…(I) created a two on one, and then there was another play there in the third period when I just took the puck in the slot, and I had a scoring chance. So when I’m moving my feet, that’s when I’m at my best.”
Another standout game or three, and Friedman may force his way into the lineup, one way or another.
Of course, the player behind Friedman is now Joseph. Perhaps Joseph didn’t feel too bad leaving his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton mates for the sunshine state.
Joseph played 16 games last season and was a hit for the first 10-12 games, though as the adrenaline wore off and he was paired with Kris Letang, Joseph began to look more like an early 20-something rookie.
Friedman declined to get into specifics of his spearing misconduct penalty in the Penguins final preseason game. He simply called it a learning experience.
Yeah, you don’t do that. Now he knows.
Sidney Crosby Update
Crosby is still unlikely to play on Thursday night. Sullivan didn’t necessarily hint that he could, but in updating the Penguins captain’s status, it certainly seems that Crosby will return sooner than later.
Crosby, 34, had wrist surgery on the eve of training camp, and he was expected to be out for at least six weeks. However, it appears he could beat that timeframe by a few days.
“I think his conditioning is terrific. He’s skating–It seems like he can skate forever. We’re progressing him with the direction of our medical staff and the doctors in a controlled environment,” said the Penguins coach. “But he’s progressing really well. We’re encouraged by all the progress he’s made to this point. We’ll see where it goes, but everybody seems to be very pleased with how he’s tracking.”
Saturday vs. old friend Marc-Andre Fleury at PPG Paints Arena?
But first, the Pittsburgh Penguins must face old friend Patric Hornqvist and the Florida Panthers on Thursday.