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3 Things: Practice updates, All-Star reax and more

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Here are the three biggest takeaways from Wednesday afternoon's optional practice at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena.

1. Practice updates

The Penguins were originally scheduled to hold a team practice, but only a few players ended up skating. 

Captain Sidney Crosby (core muscle, 26 games missed), forward Nick Bjugstad (core muscle, 24 games missed) and defenseman Justin Schultz (lower-body, nine games missed) all took the ice with skills coach Ty Hennes and assistant coaches Sergei Gonchar and Mark Recchi prior to the scheduled start time.

Schultz left after about 15-20 minutes, but Crosby and Bjugstad stayed out and were joined by Alex Galchenyuk, Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi, Andrew Agozzino, Kevin Czuczman, Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry.

"I'm reluctant to put timeframes on these guys because there's so many things that influence those timeframes," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said of the injured players. "We're encouraged by all the guys' progress. We feel like they're all getting closer. They're visibly stronger on the ice and that's encouraging for all of us."

The Penguins are scheduled to practice in Colorado on Thursday ahead of their matchup with the Avalanche on Friday at Pepsi Center.

After Tuesday's morning skate ahead of Pittsburgh's 4-3 win over the Golden Knights that night, Sullivan didn't rule out Crosby playing either in Colorado or Arizona on Sunday on the team's current road swing. 

"Anything is conceivable," Sullivan said. "We're just trying to take each day as it comes and make the best decisions to allow the rehab process to take place. When Sid is ready to play we'll insert him into the lineup."

2. Jarry and Letang's All-Star reactions

Prior to the game, it was announced that goalie Tristan Jarry and defenseman Kris Letang had been named to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game to represent the Metropolitan Division.

Jarry will serve as the replacement for Columbus goaltender Joonas Korpisalo and Letang will replace Penguins forward Jake Guentzel, who underwent shoulder surgery on Dec. 31. 

This is the first All-Star Game selection for the 24-year-old netminder, who was shocked and pleasantly surprised by the news that he would be going to St. Louis at the end of the month.

"It surprised me," he said. "It's exciting. It's something that every kid dreams of. You watch it every year. It's something you always think would be cool to be a part of. It's something that I'll take in stride."

While Jarry will be a rookie at this year's festivities, Letang will be a veteran as he will be playing in his sixth career All-Star Game - surpassing Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for the most appearances by a Pittsburgh defenseman. 

He's coming off quite the performance last year in San Jose, where Letang recorded five points in two 3-on-3 tournament games - giving him six goals and eight points in five career All-Star appearances.

"It's fun to be named," he said.

3. Hornqvist keeps rolling

Winger Patric Horrnqvist scored in Tuesday's win to give him four goals in six games since returning from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for 10 games.

Despite dealing with a couple of injuries over the first half - he also missed seven straight games in November - Hornqvist hasn't let that slow him down. He's putting the puck in the net at quite the pace as he has 10 goals in just 26 appearances this season.

"I felt good coming into training camp," Hornqvist said. "The long summer helps too. We had a few years there when we couldn't do a lot of training. You take advantage of the chance to train a lot."

Despite coming off a campaign where he didn't hit the 20-goal mark for the first time since the lockout-shortened season, finishing with 18 tallies, Hornqvist had no doubt he was capable of getting back to his usual rate this year.

"I like to score goals," he said with a smile. "You always like to score goals and you always want to beat your record, so that's why I'm still in this league. I want to get better and keep winning."

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