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3 Things: Hornqvist game-time and more

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Penguins' Wednesday afternoon practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

1. Hornqvist will be game-time

Patric Hornqvist was all smiles in the locker room when he got off the ice this afternoon, as he is close to a return after missing the last seven games with a lower-body injury.

"Yeah," Hornqvist said when asked if he felt ready to go for Thursday. "It feels good. It was nice to get that practice with the team and get those line rushes and battles in the corners and game-like situations. It was good, felt good and I'm excited if everything goes the right way."

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan officially ruled Hornqvist a game-time decision against the Islanders. The forward practiced with full contact for a second straight day.

"He certainly had a good practice today, and that's encouraging from our standpoint," Sullivan said.

If Hornqvist is ready to go, it will certainly be a big boost for the Penguins. 

"He adds a lot," Sullivan said. "He's hard to play against. He's one of the best net-front guys in the league. We think he's had a good start to the year. He's a good player in so many ways. He's unique to our team because we don't have a lot of guys that are like him. When he's in our lineup, I think we're a better team."

Defenseman Justin Schultz left practice early, and Sullivan had no update on him following the skate. Here is the workflow the Penguins used:

Guentzel-Malkin-Rust 

Kahun-McCann-Tanev 

Galchenyuk-Blandisi/Lafferty-Hornqvist 

Aston-Reese--Blueger-Simon 

Dumoulin-Marino 

Pettersson-Ruhwedel

Johnson-Riikola

2. Ready for a rematch

Thursday marks the second game of a home-and-home series with the Islanders at Barclays Center, and the Penguins are chomping at the bit to get another crack at their opponent after how the first game went.

On Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins had leads of 2-0 and 4-2 over the Islanders - only to watch them evaporate into an eventual 5-4 overtime loss. The Penguins were not happy about how that one ended, but they are happy about the chance for redemption. 

"I think it's awesome," Bryan Rust said. "It's a good opportunity for us to turn the page, focus on the next one and try and make up for whatever happened last night. This is a good opportunity for us."

After the game, the players all said they needed to watch the video and learn from their mistakes. After doing that, their biggest takeaway was that they simply can't let their foot off the gas. 

"It doesn't matter what the score is or what the situation is. You've got to try and keep your mentality the same and keep pushing," Rust said. "That might have been the trap we fell into, is maybe a little bit of a complacency. They started to push and we may have panicked a little. I think we just need to pull up our bootstraps and push a little harder."

3. Man-on-man

Dating back to last season, the Penguins have struggled in overtime. Tuesday night's 3-on-3 session was particularly rough for a number of reasons, with Sullivan outlining them after the game.

"I just thought our details were brutal," Sullivan said. "There's not tons of strategy in overtime. There's only three people on the ice. You've got to defend when it's called upon, you've got to support the puck, you've got to outchange the (opponent) and we did none of the above. And we struggled in the faceoff circle as well."

The one area of strategy that Evgeni Malkin singled out was their defensive-zone coverage.

"I think when we play 5-on-5, we play a different system," he explained. "We do not play man-to-man. And in OT, 3-on-3, it's man-on-man. We're a little bit confused."

Malkin said that is something they might need to practice more. On Wednesday, that's exactly what they did.

"Trying to stay man-on-man in the D-zone is what we were working on," Zach Aston-Reese said. "No one scored today, so (laughs). Hopefully it stays like that in the games."

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