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Improved Timing and Conditioning Next Step For Staal, Orpik and Asham

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Takeaway:

  • Jordan Staal (foot), Arron Asham (upper-body) and Brooks Orpik (upper-body) returned to practice on Tuesday.
  • Zbynek Michalek (upper-body) skated on his own again in the morning with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
  • All three players gave favorable reports on their injuries following practice.
  • Head coach Dan Bylsma did not offer up a timetable on each player’s return, but did say Orpik is the closest to returning.
  • Conditioning and timing are going to be the key factors as to when each player is ready to play.

If the grind of playing – and winning – three games in four nights had the Penguins feeling a bit fatigued as they took the ice for practice on Tuesday morning at the Iceoplex at Southpointe, the players had to feel at least a bit energized when they saw what greeted them.

Three-fourths of the squad’s walking wounded – forwards Jordan Staal (foot) and Arron Asham (upper-body), along with defenseman Brooks Orpik (groin) – joined the team at practice for the first time since each exited the lineup with injuries.

“It was a great feeling no question about it,” Staal said. “Not only was it nice to get back, but it was nice to be back with the guys. It was a lot of fun.”

“It’s been a long week,” Orpik said. “It’s never fun watching. You never want to be watching, but it makes it a little more enjoyable when the team is winning.”

“It's good to be around the guys, especially being new to the team,” Asham added. “It's tough not being around. We have this road trip coming up and I'm close to being back, so it's nice.”

The fourth injured Penguin – defenseman Zbynek Michalek (upper-body), continued to skate on his own with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar prior to practice.

While Staal, Asham and Orpik were able to get through the entire workout, and looked good doing so, it is still probably going to be a little longer before we see any of three return to game action.

“I don’t have a real timetable right now,” said head coach Dan Bylsma when asked about Staal’s status. “But you can see with the way he is skating out there that we aren’t talking about the first of January either.

“(Orpik and Asham) skated hard (Monday). Today was their first bit of hard contact. We’ll see how they are. I think Brooks Orpik is a lot farther along than Arron Asham right now.”

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was encouraged by progress he saw made by the injured trio on Tuesday.

“It didn’t even look like they have missed too much time,” Crosby said. “Everybody is skating well and seems to be in good shape. That’s a good sign for us and them. The sooner we get them back the better.”

After talking with each of the three following practice, it sounds as if getting their timing and conditioning up to game speed is the final hurdle each player has to clear before they will be ready to resume live action.

“It’s going to be a day-by-day thing how I feel out there,” said Staal, whose recovery from a foot injury only recently allowed him to begin off-ice training, let alone skating. “I have to be in shape to be able to play at this kind of level. We’ll see how it goes.

“I always think I can play tomorrow, but that’s always the way I am going to think. I have to be smart about it. When the time is right and when everybody agrees, I’ll be ready to play.”

“Games and practices are a lot different,” Orpik said. “I need a few practices in timing wise and conditioning wise. With the way this group is playing right now, there is no rush to get me back in there.

“When you take a week off, it takes you a couple of days to get your conditioning back. Besides that, the actual injury feels pretty good.”

“It’s all about getting my timing and my legs back, and waiting for the body to get close to 100 percent,” Asham said. “Then I'll get out there and start playing.”

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