Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Penguins' Wednesday afternoon practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
1. Injury updates (lots)
Three Penguins players were absent from practice: forwards Brandon Tanev and Anthony Angello and defenseman Jack Johnson. Forward Nick Bjugstad practiced once again with full contact and forward Zach Aston-Reese skated prior to the team's practice.
*Tanev, who missed Tuesday's 7-3 win against Ottawa due to an illness, is feeling better. But since he hadn't been able to eat much food during his illness, Tanev was held off the ice Wednesday.
*Angello suffered an upper-body injury in the third period Tuesday and is listed as week-to-week.
*Johnson missed practice to be with his wife, who gave birth to a baby boy. He will be available to the team Thursday night when they play in Buffalo.
*Bjugstad (core muscle injury) had another full practice. And barring any setbacks, Bjugstad could be a game-time decision for Thursday night in Buffalo, according to head coach Mike Sullivan.
"My body is feeling a lot better. I'm definitely thankful," said Bjugstad, who centered the team's third line in practice. "The training staff stuck with me. Thankfully, I'm getting back on the ice here and hopefully I get cleared to play."
If Bjugstad does return, it will be his first game action since Nov. 15 (a 46-game span). Injuries have limited him to just 10 games played this season.
"It's been the most-lengthy injury of my career," Bjugstad said. "I don't really know what to expect. I know coming back from injuries you try not to do too much. You try to get into a rhythm. Just play simple."
Aston-Reese (lower body, eight games missed) worked with skills coach Ty Hennes.
2. Sabres return
The Penguins will face the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night for the first time since the two clubs orchestrated a trade deadline deal on Feb. 24 that saw Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues come to Pittsburgh in exchange for Dominik Kahun.
"It'll be good to get it out of the way," Sheary said. "It'll be a little different seeing a lot of friends over there and guys I grew pretty close to. It should be a fun game."
"It's going to be a cool and fun opportunity," Rodrigues said. "Being in the (Buffalo) organization for five years is a long time. I'm looking forward to going back and playing against them for once."
Buffalo has won the opening two contests of the season between the two clubs, both taking place in Pittsburgh. Now the Penguins will try to avoid a series sweep in Buffalo. And maybe get some insider info from Sheary and Rodrigues.
"There are some tips that we can give the team, some tendencies," Rodrigues said, "but at the end of the day, you can have all the X's and O's, but it's going out there executing, competing, winning puck battles that will determine the outcome of the game."
The Penguins used the following workflow…