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Patric Hornqvist could return for Penguins in Game 1 vs. Predators

Forward will be game-time decision, hasn't played since May 13 because of upper-body injury

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist will be a game-time decision for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports, SN).

Hornqvist practiced Sunday after missing the past six games with an upper-body injury sustained against the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. He skated at right wing with fourth-line center Matt Cullen during line rushes, with Carl Hagelin and Jake Guentzel rotating at left wing.

"I'm feeling better," Hornqvist said. "It was nice to be out there with the boys again on the ice, skating around, and have a full practice. So, I'm getting close and the decision is going to be made [Monday]. We'll go from there.

"We all want to play in these big moments. The good thing is I'm getting better every day, and hopefully I can play tomorrow, or if I can't play tomorrow, maybe Game 2."


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If Hornqvist returns, Hagelin or Guentzel could be scratched.

Guentzel, who took turns practicing on the second power-play unit, is tied with Jakob Silfverberg of the Anaheim Ducks for the League lead with nine playoff goals; however, he has not scored in his past eight games. Hagelin has one goal in 11 playoff games.

After taking line rushes during warmups before Game 7 of the conference final Thursday, Hornqvist was scratched and replaced by Conor Sheary on the fourth line. Sheary was elevated to first-line right wing next to center Sidney Crosby and left wing Chris Kunitz in the second period.

Sheary and Kunitz remained with Crosby during practice Sunday.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said there was a chance Hornqvist could have played in Game 7.

"That's why he was in warmups," Sullivan said. "We obviously chose to hold him out for reasons we'll keep amongst ourselves, but his status is, he's obviously been cleared for practice today. He'll be a game-time decision, but based on the way he practiced today, we're certainly encouraged."

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm7: Hornqvist shovels in a backhand

Hornqvist has seven points (four goals, three assists) in 13 playoff games. He has one goal as the net-front presence on Pittsburgh's top power-play unit.

Defensemen Justin Schultz and Chad Ruhwedel (concussion), and forward Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body) also practiced. Ruhwedel and Kuhnhackl each likely will be scratched if healthy enough to play.

Schultz, who has replaced injured defenseman Kris Letang (neck surgery) as the quarterback of Pittsburgh's top power-play unit, returned from an upper-body injury in Game 7 against Ottawa after missing the previous four games. He scored a power-play goal with 8:16 remaining in the third period to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead.

Hornqvist and Schultz each practiced on the top power-play unit with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

General manager Jim Rutherford traded forward James Neal to the Predators for Hornqvist and forward Nick Spaling on June 27, 2014. Rutherford said Hornqvist has provided more energy than he expected.

"I've never met a player like him," Rutherford said. "He never has a bad day. … He's given us everything."

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