Winger Zach Aston-Reese, who had been skating on his own, returned to Pittsburgh Penguins practice Wednesday in Columbus.
Aston-Reese has missed the past 12 games because of a lower body injury. He wore a regular practice jersey, indicating he has been cleared not only for practice but also for contact.
“I felt good,” Aston-Reese said of practicing, then made a reference to being hurt several times the past few seasons. “I know this feeling all too well, almost like being in prison a little bit, kind of isolated from everyone.”
He indicated that his recovery is going better than originally expected. He was said to be out week to week.
“Didn’t expect to be this far along yet,” Aston-Reese said. “This is still all part of the rehab process.
He pointed to a silver lining to being out:
“As much as it sucks, I get to spend some time working on other parts of my game. I worked on my skating.”
His return to practice comes a day after the Penguins announced that another forward, center Nick Bjugstad, is out week to week because of a lower body injury.
Meanwhile, defenseman John Marino was absent from practice. Coach Mike Sullivan called it a maintenance day. That could be a bit of a red flag considering Marino has played in just five games since returning from facial injury. He has been wearing a full face shield.
The Penguins practiced at Nationwide Arena, where they will meet the Blue Jackets Thursday. The Blue Jackets have announced that they will not exclude fans over coronavirus fears.