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Hornqvist sidelined longer term for Penguins

Forward sustains lower-body injury in practice; defenseman Schultz 'really close' to return for Pittsburgh

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Patric Hornqvist will be out longer term for the Pittsburgh Penguins because of a lower-body injury.

The forward was injured in practice Monday, when he fell after starting line rushes at first-line right wing. Dominik Simon replaced him on that line with center Evgeni Malkin and left wing Jake Guentzel in practice Tuesday.

Pittsburgh will be without Hornqvist and forward Bryan Rust, who is day to day with a lower-body injury, when it hosts the St. Louis Blues on "Wednesday Night Hockey" (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

"At this point, you just have to smile," forward Jared McCann said. "Like, come on. ... We have depth in this room. We have guys who are great leaders who bring the team up. It's someone new stepping up every night. Sometimes you're going to have injuries. I get that."

Rust had been first-line right wing before he was injured during the morning skate prior to a 5-2 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. He skated before practice Tuesday, coach Mike Sullivan said. Rust has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 14 games this season after being sidelined the first 11 games because of an upper-body injury.

Hornqvist has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 20 games. He missed seven games from Nov. 2-21 with a lower-body injury.

Video: PIT@NYI: Hornqvist ties it in final minute

The Penguins are also without centers Sidney Crosby and Nick Bjugstad, each recovering from core muscle surgery.

Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is expected to be out at least eight weeks after having ankle surgery Sunday. Jack Johnson joined Kris Letang on the top defense pair, where Dumoulin normally plays, in practice Tuesday.

Justin Schultz returned to practice in a no-contact jersey after missing the past six games with a lower-body injury. The defenseman said he would likely need to practice a few more times before playing.

Schultz skated on a fourth defense pair Tuesday. His recovery was initially considered longer term.

"Just trying to get ready to get back into a game here," Schultz said. "I think I'm really close. ... I think I'm ahead of schedule now, so it's been feeling really good."

Stefan Noesen, signed to a one-year, $700,000 contract at the NHL level Monday, took line rushes at second-line right wing with McCann at center and left wing Alex Galchenyuk. He has 22 points (14 goals, eight assists) in 22 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this season after playing 41 games with the New Jersey Devils last season.

"I don't think anybody would ever tell you they want to take things slowly," Noesen said. "For me, it's just going out there and playing hockey. Whatever happens, happens."

Hornqvist played right wing on the second line in the Penguins' most recent game, a 5-2 loss at the Blues on Saturday. Dumoulin was injured in his first shift of that game.

Through 27 games this season, Pittsburgh's injured players have included Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Rust, Hornqvist, Galchenyuk, Dumoulin, Schultz, McCann and Bjugstad.

"You can't think of that stuff," Johnson said. "Just take care of yourself. Be a pro. Control things you can control. There are some injuries you can't do anything about. There's bad ice in morning skate and [Rust] goes down in the corner. You can't control things like that.

"Other than that, take care of yourself. You train for the season, you train during the season, to stay healthy. Eat well. Get good sleep. Control things you can control."

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