Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik practiced with the full team Friday for the first time since he sustained a concussion Dec. 7. However, he's not ready to put a timeline on a return to the lineup.
Orpik has been skating on his own since Dec. 13 and passed a baseline concussion test Thursday which allowed him to take part in full-contact practice drills that day with teammates Deryk Engelland, Tanner Glass and Rob Scuderi.
"I did some contact [Thursday]," Orpik said after practice Friday. "… I got through that and felt pretty good [Friday]. We're going from there."
Orpik was hurt when he was pushed to the ice by the Boston Bruins' Shawn Thornton, who then punched Orpik while he was down. The NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Thornton for 15 games. Thornton is appealing the suspension.
He said the first few days after the injury were "really miserable," with "bad headaches, memory loss with the incident itself."
Orpik said he has spoken to Thornton and that the pair remains friends. They have skated together in the offseason and developed a nice relationship.
"I talked to him that night and I talked to him the day after," Orpik said. "He was really apologetic. My record is far from perfect in this League and far from being completely clean. I think he knew he made a mistake and regretted it right away. I had the same feeling with incidents that I've been a part of. You try to learn from it, move on and be smarter in similar situations going forward. I know him pretty well. He's always been a pretty good friend of mine."
Orpik has been cleared by doctors but said he's not rushing back into the lineup.
"It's just getting back into the flow of things," he said. "I don't know when I'll be back playing. I don't want to screw up a good thing. I just want to get a few practices in."
Orpik's return would be important for the Penguins, who are missing their top four defenseman due to injury: Scuderi (ankle), Paul Martin (undisclosed) and Kris Letang (upper body). Orpik has seven points in 31 games and is third among the team's defenseman in average ice time per game at 21:30.
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