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3 things: Schultz, Hunwick cleared for contact

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

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

1. Schultz returns to full practice

Defenseman Justin Schultz skated with his teammates on Monday for the first time since sustaining a concussion. He's been cleared for full contact and was wearing a regular yellow jersey.

"It feels unreal to be back with the team," Schultz said after practice. "It was not fun being here while everyone was on the road. It still sucks being stuck here. So it was awesome coming to the rink this morning. I was excited and it feels great."

Schultz was injured 5:51 into the first period of the Penguins' 2-1 overtime win over Edmonton on Oct. 24 after taking an elbow up high from Oilers forward Drake Caggiula. The team placed Schultz on injured reserve the following day, and he did not travel to western Canada for the Penguins' season-long, five-game road swing.

Schultz, a native of Kelowna, British Columbia, was disappointed to miss that trip back home to see family and friends he only gets to see once a year during the season.

"I had a lot of family that were planning to go to the games, especially in Vancouver," he said. "It was tough to stay back here and not be able to go, but you can't cheat a concussion."

Another punch to the gut was that his girlfriend and their dog had made plans to head back home to western Canada for the week, so they still ended up going, leaving Schultz back in Pittsburgh by himself.

"I did a lot of walking around," he said before adding with a laugh, "It was the most bored I've ever been for a week. But the boys are back and it's good."

He stayed busy by skating with his injured teammates who also remained back in Pittsburgh, with skills coach Ty Hennes running their solo sessions. Schultz resumed skating on Oct. 27, the day the team left for Minnesota, and has been skating ever since. He didn't put a timetable on his return, saying they'll see how he feels Tuesday and go from there.

"I felt good out there today," he said. "So we'll see how the body responds and how I feel tomorrow morning."

2. Hunwick cleared for contact

Defenseman Matt Hunwick joined the team in western Canada a few days into the trip and joined them for morning skate ahead of their 3-2 victory over Edmonton on Nov. 1.

He said he'll talk to the coaches after Tuesday's morning skate before the Penguins host Arizona and they'll go from there in terms of whether he'll be ready to rejoin the lineup.

"I've been skating for a while now," Hunwick said. "I've been out for almost three weeks, have probably skated for two weeks. Today was my first real practice, so just try to get up to speed a little bit. Conditioning won't be an issue."

Hunwick has missed the last 10 games since realizing something was wrong and getting diagnosed with a concussion. He's not quite sure when the injury first happened, but it manifested in a practice.

"I think maybe I already had something going on and it just triggered it," Hunwick said. "From that point, had a headache and it was pretty clear that it probably happened in practice. I've had a couple before that you know exactly when it happens, but not with this one."

Head coach Mike Sullivan said whenever Schultz and Hunwick are ready to play, they'll be immediately inserted into the lineup despite both missing a decent amount of time.

"They were full contact today. They both had good days," Sullivan said. "We'll see how they react and then obviously we'll have to make decisions tomorrow morning. It's really positive the signs that they showed today."

3. Practice info

Zach Trotman was the only expected player missing from practice. The Penguins used the following workflow…

Sheary-Crosby-Hornqvist

Guentzel-Malkin-Kessel

Hagelin-Sheahan-Rust

Kuhnhackl-McKegg-Reaves/Archibald

Maatta-Letang

Dumoulin-Ruhwedel

Corrado-Cole

Hunwick-Schultz

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