NASHVILLE, Tennessee - The Penguins held a rare morning skate on Friday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena, and an old friend made an appearance.
Winger Patric Hornqvist, who has missed the past four weeks with a lower-body injury, was back on the ice with his teammates for the morning skate, though he will not play tonight against his former team, the Nashville Predators.
When the team arrived in Nashville, Hornqvist walked out to the bench and glanced at the ice he called home for the first six seasons of his NHL career, particularly at the end zone where he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2017. Later, Hornqvist was greeted with cheers by his teammates when he made his way to the ice for practice.
"The fact that he's joined the team in a full capacity, he's been skating for a while now, he's had contact, so he's getting closer to being a coach's decisions," head coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Penguins recalled forwards Thomas Di Pauli and Joseph Blandisi and defenseman Kevin Czuczman from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the morning.
The team used the following workflow…
Aston-Reese - Blueger - Tanev
Sidney Crosby (core muscle) and Nick Bjugstad (core muscle) are both skating with skills coach Ty Hennes. Brian Dumoulin (ankle) and Justin Schultz (lower-body) are not.
The Penguins are back in action following a five-day Christmas break. And Sullivan can feel the team's eagerness about returning to game action after the hiatus.
"Guys are excited to be back on the ice," he said. "We had a nice break. It's nice sometimes to get away from the game for a little bit and re-energize. I think our guys are excited to be back."
Anytime a team goes through a duration of time away from the game, there is also an adjustment period to returning. Both sides, in this case, will be dealing with it.
"It's going to be a strange game," forward Zach Aston-Reese said. "Both teams have been off for three, four days each. It might be a little bit of a slop fest to start."
But it won't take long for both teams to get back into a groove.
"Just a couple shifts," center Jared McCann said of the adjustment period. "It's more the speed of the game you're catching up to. We're just going to take it one shift at a time and not try to do too much."
On top of that, the Penguins are also dealing with a day-of travel for the game. The Penguins boarded a plane in Pittsburgh that took off at 9 a.m. They landed in Nashville and bused straight to the rink for morning skate. After the game ends, they'll be flying back to Pittsburgh.
"I've haven't done a day-of-the-game since the minors," McCann laughed.
It just makes tonight's contest all the more challenging, particularly against a team that was 6-2-2 heading into the break.
"Getting back into the mindset and the intensity and compete level that it takes to have success in this league," Sullivan said. "We're playing a team that's playing extremely well right now, and we have to be ready for the drop of the puck."