There was a lot of news on the injury front at Penguins practice on Wednesday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Captain Sidney Crosby was absent after being placed on the COVID Protocol Related Absences List ahead of Tuesday's 5-2 win against the Flyers.
Being added to that list can be the result of a number of factors including, among others: an initial positive test which remains unconfirmed until confirmatory testing is completed; mandated isolation for symptomatic individuals; required quarantine as a high-risk close contact; isolation based on a confirmed positive test result and/or quarantine for travel; or other reasons as outlined in the COVID-19 Protocol.
Per the NHL's protocol, no additional detail will be provided either by the league or the club, including the precise reason the player is unavailable or how long he might be out. While head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed he cannot comment on the matter, he did say Crosby is staying involved remotely.
"I'm sure he's talked to players on the phone, and I've had a couple of conversations with him myself," Sullivan said. "He has the capacity to be plugged into all of the video sessions we're sending to the players."
While the Penguins remain without their captain, they did get a few injured players back in the fold.
Forward Mark Jankowski practiced after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury, while defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forward Evan Rodrigues - who have been out longer-term - took a big step forward by joining the team as well.
The two of them have been rehabbing together these past few weeks, as Dumoulin said they have the same lower-body injury.
"Both Dumo and E-Rod practiced in a full capacity today," said Sullivan, who added there is no other change to their statuses. "They took full contact. That's the first full practice they've had with the team. That's a real encouraging step and a big step from their standpoint."
Dumoulin has missed the last 14 games with a lower-body injury suffered on Jan. 26 against Boston. In the weeks since, the 29-year-old had often been spotted watching his teammates practice from the bench or at the glass, and said he was trying to see as much of the guys as he could.
"Just to try to get a feel for how things are going, and just talking with them and trying to make them laugh a little bit and just spend some time with them," Dumoulin said. "But it's tough when you're injured. So it was good to see them on the ice and be out there with them."
It's been a difficult stretch for Dumoulin over the past year-plus when it comes to longer-term injuries of the lower-body type, as he also had ankle surgery on Dec. 1, 2019 that kept him out of the lineup until March 3, 2020.
While those are typically more difficult to rehab compared to upper-body injuries, Dumoulin credited the Penguins training staff for the job they have done.
"Something that (our trainers) have done from Day 1 of my injuries is to try to keep me still in that skating motion," he said. "Whether it be off the ice or just working on those same muscles that I would be if I was skating. So when I've gotten on the ice, now I feel back at normal. I feel full go."
Dumoulin played in just five games before the NHL pressed pause, had to wait a few months before appearing in four more during the Qualifying Round, and then had to wait another few months before getting injured in the seventh game of the season.
It's been a lot to deal with, but Dumoulin is trying to stay as positive as he can and look at the bright side of it all. It helps that Dumoulin has spoken with other players who have experienced the same injury, and they all said they felt good upon returning.
"When you hear you have an injury and stuff, especially with my one last year and how severe it was, it's never fun when you get that news," Dumoulin said. "But for me, my outlook on life and my outlook for anything is positivity. I try to stay as positive as I can and try to look at the bright side of things."
That's the same approach that Rodrigues is taking after getting injured at an inopportune time.
The 27-year-old had received a great opportunity to skate on a line with Crosby and Jake Guentzel before getting injured in a collision with New York's Filip Chytil on Jan. 24 against the Rangers. Rodrigues has since missed the last 15 games.
"Just like any injury, you kind of have to be positive about it and just turn your focus to doing everything you can to get back out there," Rodrigues said. "I think that's what I did. It's been a long 5-6 weeks. But I'm happy to be back out with the team and looking forward to getting back out there."