Pittsburgh Penguins center Jeff Carter skated Wednesday at a well-attended morning skate at PPG Paints Arena, a sign that he is out of COVID-19 protocol as the team keeps moving toward full health.
However, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Carter will not play Wednesday night when the Penguins put their eight-game winning streak on the line against the St. Louis Blues, a team that also is surging at 7-1-1 in their past nine games.
Carter went into protocol Friday, so he spent the minimum five days isolated from the team. An extra day or so off before he plays could be prudent.
With Carter back, the only Penguins player remaining in COVID-19 protocol is forward Drew O’Connor, who just entered the protocol Tuesday after testing positive that morning.
The only other two players fully out right now are center Evgeni Malkin, who seems close to making his season debut after June knee surgery, and winger Jason Zucker, who has a lower-body injury. Zucker has been labeled as being out week to week, but he has begun skating separately from the team.
Sullivan said Malkin is not ready to return Wednesday.
“He’s getting close,” Sullivan said of Malkin. “We’re encouraged with where he’s at, and we feel like his (return) is nearing.”
Goaltender Tristan Jarry, winger Kasperi Kapanen and center Teddy Blueger came out of COVID-19 protocol Tuesday and practiced with the team. Center Brian Boyle also returned Wednesday after being away for the birth of son Callum.
All of those players are available for the game against the Blues, Sullivan said.
However, backup Casey DeSmith was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, and Sullivan confirmed that DeSmith will start against St. Louis. It will be DeSmith’s second straight start. He was in net Sunday for an 8-5 win over San Jose.
The Penguins have back-to-back games with one Thursday in Philadelphia, so Jarry could have the extra day before starting in that game.