TAMPA BAY, FLORIDA – Defenseman Zbynek Michalek
made another step towards recovery Sunday afternoon after participating in his first full practice with the Penguins since suffering an upper-body injury at New Jersey Oct. 11.
“It feels good to get back out there and skate with the guys,” said Michalek, who has been skating on his own for a week. “I was skating by myself for a few days and that’s not too much fun. I’m happy that it’s progressing and feeling much better.”
“He’s coming along well,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “His conditioning and his work off the ice has been really good. It’s a matter of getting comfortable and getting some contact. We’ll see how that works for the next week or so.”
Michalek, who has been working on his conditioning the last two weeks before getting back on the ice, went through every drill with his teammates and said he wasn’t limited due to the injury.
“I feel really good,” Michalek said. “I was really happy with the practice. It’s not quite 100 percent, but it’s getting better every day. I feel pretty confident that I should be back in the lineup soon.”
Michalek’s quick progress hasn’t surprised the coaching staff, which saw firsthand how resilient the Czech native can be.
“Initially we felt he was a pretty tough customer with a pretty high tolerance of pain,” Bylsma said. “He ended his shift in New Jersey. A lot of other people would have crumbled to the ice and would not have done what he did, finish the shift and play defense.”
The upper-body injury was a rough start to the season for Michalek, who was joining a new team after signing with Pittsburgh in the offseason.
“It’s not a good start, coming to a new team and getting hurt right away, but it’s a part of the game,” Michalek said. “I have to make sure that I’m ready to go. It will take some time to get back with timing and everything. I’ve been watching a lot of hockey lately, learning the system a little bit better and that will probably help me. I have to build on that.
“It’s definitely tough. It’s not the start I wanted but we’ll go through it and hopefully I’ll be fine.”