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Round 2

Carl Hagelin practices with Penguins, unlikely for Game 1

Injured forward not expected to face Capitals in opener of Eastern Conference Second Round

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Carl Hagelin practiced Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury March 10.

After the Penguins were off Tuesday, Hagelin joined his teammates wearing a yellow no-contact jersey. He is unlikely to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

Hagelin skated alone Sunday and Monday. Two days later, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan did not have a time frame for Hagelin's return.

"I think [Hagelin is] getting eager," Sullivan said. "I think it's a big step that he's joined the team in practice today. We'll take it day to day as we go, but certainly the fact that he's joined the team in practice, he's a whole lot closer."

Hagelin has missed 21 games since a 3-2 shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers.

In his first full regular season with Pittsburgh, Hagelin had 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 61 games. After being traded from the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 16, 2016, he had 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 37 games before scoring 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

After practice, Hagelin said he hoped his return was close, but "you never know."

Video: CAR@PIT: Hagelin snaps quick one-timer from Hornqvist

"It was a lot of fun," Hagelin said. "Anytime you're off for an extended time, you feel joy being out there with the boys. It's a step in the right direction, for sure."

Goalie Matt Murray's status remains cloudy. He was again absent from practice Wednesday and has not skated since sustaining a lower-body injury during warmups before Game 1 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was 4-1 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in the first round, is expected to start Thursday.

With the exception of Hagelin, the rest of Pittsburgh's lineup was the same Wednesday. That included forward Chris Kunitz (lower body) and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (upper body), who participated in a third consecutive practice.

Kunitz and Ruhwedel have taken full contact in the past two practices since skating in no-contact jerseys Sunday.

After missing 10 games, Kunitz might play in Game 1. If he does return, he could be inserted at fourth-line left wing with center Matt Cullen and either Tom Kuhnhackl or Carter Rowney at right wing.

Video: CGY@PIT: Crosby assists as Kunitz finds twine in 3rd

"We have to go in there and earn everything," Kunitz said. "We have to go out and play our game. The pressure is to play our game every single night." 

Even if Ruhwedel is healthy enough to return Thursday, he would likely join defensemen Mark Streit and Cameron Gaunce among the healthy scratches.

After practice Monday, Sullivan said Kunitz and Ruhwedel would be game-time decisions for Game 1. Sullivan again labeled Kunitz a game-time decision Wednesday.

"If [Kunitz] plays, he has a wealth of experience," Sullivan said. "He's been in the League a long time. I think he knows his role and he understands his game. I think he's very good at playing within himself.

"Our challenge will be to put him in position where he can play with strengths and be successful. We'll make those decisions accordingly when the time is right."

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