Defenseman Justin Schultz practiced Monday. Center Evgeni Malkin did not. Neither injured player is expected to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday when the Carolina Hurricanes visit PPG Paints Arena.
Malkin, who is believed to have a hand injury, skated earlier with fellow injured forward Zach Aston-Reese. Coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin “is making progress,” but the fact that he did not practice would seem to indicate he is not ready to return after missing the past two games.
Schultz, out since Oct. 13 because of a broken left leg, participated with his teammates for the first time since being cleared to take contact.
“Still working. I’ve missed a lot of time, so it’s going to take more than one contact practice, but it’s moving in the right direction,” Schultz said. “It was a good step. Everything felt fine. It’s getting there, and I’m positive.”
Schultz not long ago was labeled week to week, but he seems to have advanced to day-to-day status.
“He’s getting close,” Sullivan said. “Today he participated full contact. He looked strong to me out there. We got him involved in the power play. I think he’s anxious to play. We’ll see how he responds and we’ll make decisions accordingly.
Schultz was paired primarily with Chad Ruhwedel on a fourth defensive pairing at practice, but he also worked with the second power-play unit.
Before he was hurt, Schultz skated primarily with Olli Maatta. Since then, however, the Penguins have added Marcus Pettersson, traded Jamie Oleksiak, and Maatta has developed chemistry with Juuso Riikola.
“We’ve talked about combinations. We haven’t come up with a game plan yet,” Sullivan said of Schultz being reunited with Maatta. “Certainly that is a possibility. Olli and ‘Schultzie’ have played together in the past. They’ve been a strong pair for us. But we’ve talked about a number of different combinations moving forward. We’ll see when we have a full compliment of defensemen.”
The lines and defensive pairings at practice:
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-BryanRust
Tanner Pearson-Nick Bjugstad-Phil Kessel
Dominik Simon-Jared McCann-Patric Hornqvist
Teddy Blueger-Matt Cullen-Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Olli Maatta-Juuso Riikola \
Marcus Pettersson-Jack Johnson
Justin Schultz-Chad Ruhwedel