Cranberry Twp — He’s not officially back in the lineup yet, but Pittsburgh Penguins center Teddy Blueger took another step on Tuesday in his recovery from a fractured jaw and subsequent surgery.
Blueger has been skating independently with skills coach Ty Hennes for about a week. Tuesday, Blueger joined the Penguins practice, complete with a fishbowl face shield and white non-contact sweater.
UPDATE: Head coach Mike Sullivan explained that Blueger was able to join the team because it was a skills practice.
“He’s still going through the process. He skated with the team today because the practice was built around skill development and team-specific stuff, so we knew there wasn’t a lot of contact…,” Sullivan said.
Blueger underwent successful surgery on Jan. 24. His initial timetable for return was six to eight weeks, so he may appear to be a little ahead of schedule. PHN will update the practice story with lines and team reactions after practice.
Teddy Blueger, the Penguins’ fourth-line center, was injured midway through the third period of the Penguins 3-2 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets at PPG Paints Arena on Jan. 23. Winnipeg defenseman Brenden Dillon finished his check at the end wall, but the 6-foot-4 Dillon’s shoulder made direct contact with Blueger’s head.
Head coach Mike Sullivan was direct, “It was a hit to the head.”
However, neither officials on the ice nor the NHL Department of Player Safety penalized Dillon.
Blueger has 17 points this season, including eight goals in 40 games.
The Penguins have lost two in a row, both to playoff teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes. The Penguins currently trail Carolina by four points for the Metropolitan Division lead, and Carolina has two games in hand.
However, as Blueger returned, Zach Aston-Reese was absent from practice.
UPDATE: Zach Aston-Reese had a maintenance day, per head coach Mike Sullivan.