Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz could be a little ahead of schedule as he recovers from a broken left leg. At the end of practice Monday in San Jose, Schultz skated in full gear.
“With every day, he’s getting a little bit stronger and we’re hoping he’s not far off” from joining the team during the regular portion of a practice, coach Mike Sullivan said.
“We’re waiting for the doctor to give him clearance to join the team, but he is definitely making progress just from having my own conversations with him. With every day that he skates, he feels a little bit stronger. My sense is that I don’t think it’s too far off.”
Schultz got hurt Oct. 13. His timetable has been set for a February return. If he can resume regular practices, particularly with clearance for contact, relatively soon, perhaps that timetable could be accelerated.
Barring an injury or trade in the meantime, Schultz’s return would give the Penguins nine healthy defenseman, which is not usually workable for an NHL team. That could mean some decisions are upcoming.
Schultz is one of the Penguins’ best two-way defenseman, behind Kris Letang, and is a strong power-play presence.
Winger Zach Aston-Reese (believed to be hand injury) also skated, wearing a warmup suit rather than full equipment.
The Penguins play the Sharks Tuesday.
Reports from San Jose noted there were no changes in the line combinations and defensive pairings from what the Penguins have been using on this road trip.