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Penguins Report: Fleury Returns to Practice

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury practiced with his teammates at the team’s morning skate on Monday. It was Fleury’s first practice since suffering an undisclosed injury in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15.

“I was excited about the news that I could practice with them again,” Fleury said. “I was out for a while so it was good to just get out there and have some fun again.”

“It’s been a little bit now,” Sidney Crosby said. “He’s a guy that keeps things loose. He’s competitive. It’s good for him to be back.”

Fleury had been taking shots in pre-practice sessions with the Penguins for the past week but is deemed healthy enough to participate in a full team practice. He is still listed as week-to-week and there is no set date for a return game.

“He’s getting closer and closer,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “That’s good. Hopefully, pretty soon he’ll be back.”

They’ll be cautious but at the same time I’m anxious to get back in net - Marc-Andre Fleury
“I have to check with the trainers and what they have to say,” said Fleury, who split practice time with John Curry. “I don’t know. With that injury, if I injure it again then I’m out for a really long time. They’ll be cautious but at the same time I’m anxious to get back in net.”

Fleury’s injury is healing and now he’s trying to work on his conditioning.

“Everything is getting better,” he said. “I just have to get back into game shape. I’ll just go one day at a time and see how it feels and if everything holds up.”

> The injury list continues to grow for the Penguins, particularly on the blue line. Defenseman Hal Gill was hurt against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon. The injury is undisclosed and his status is unknown.

“Hal Gill got hurt on his last shift,” Therrien said. “He’s going to see the doctor (Monday night). We’ll have an update after (Monday night’s) game. Right now he’s not in a position to play.”

Gill didn't participate in the Penguins' morning skate and will not be in the lineup for Pittsburgh when they face the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night at Mellon Arena at 7:38 p.m.

Therrien also said that forward Mike Zigomanis is closer to getting back in the lineup.

The Penguins are missing four defensemen due to injuries: Ryan Whitney (IR: foot), Sergei Gonchar (IR: shoulder), Philippe Boucher (IR: undisclosed) and Gill.

“At this point it’s unfortunately becoming a common practice with guys going down,” Rob Scuderi said. “That’s why we have a system, so guys can come right in and it doesn’t take long to adjust.”

> Stepping in for Gill Monday night will be right-handed defenseman Ben Lovejoy. He was recalled from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday and will make his NHL debut against the Buffalo Sabres.

“The most important thing for him is to keep it really simple,” Therrien said. “You want to make sure you do your job defensively. He’s got some poise with the puck. For him, the challenge is to play really solid defensively.”


Lovejoy, who stands 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, was welcomed by the Penguins - although there was some hazing for the Dartmouth alum.

“I led the (pre-practice) stretch today,” Lovejoy said. “I was definitely uncomfortable doing that but it’s a lot of fun to be here."

Lovejoy will be paired with fellow rookie Alex Goligoski. The two played together last season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

“We weren’t paired up all that often,” Lovejoy said. “We were both rookies and were paired with some older players. I know his game. We played some power play time together last year. We killed penalties. He’s a special talent with offensive abilities. I’m excited to be out there with him.”

Lovejoy and Goligoski’s companionship continued off the ice as well.

“We lived in a house together,” Lovejoy said. “It could have been nicer. I lived in the basement which was sort of furnished. The ceiling was about 5-foot-11 so I had to walk around (head tilted). It was a good experience for my first year pro and I’m happy to be out of there. The Marriott was good to me last night.”

Now it’s Goligoski’s role to give his former teammate a tour of the city of Pittsburgh.

“Hopefully I’m here long enough,” Lovejoy said.

> The Penguins face the Sabres for the third time in their past 11 games. The two clubs are familiar with each other and play similar styles.

“They’re a good skating team,” Crosby said. “We expect to have to move our feet. For us, that is the way we like to play. We have to be smart and do things right out there.”

One of the right things would be to contain Buffalo assassin Thomas Vanek. The former Minnesota Gopher leads the NHL (tied) with 19 goals this season.

“He’s dangerous,” Crosby said. “You don’t want to give him a lot of time and space. He’s got a great shot. He’ll get his chances but we have to try to limit them, definitely make sure we keep an eye on him.”

He’s a natural goal score. You just have to know where he is at all times. - Brooks Orpik
“He’s a natural goal scorer,” Brooks Orpik said. “He’s big and strong. He’s one of those guys that finds his way away from traffic and gets into open areas. You just have to know where he is at all times. He’s always kind of at the backdoor. It seems like the puck always finds him around the net.”

Vanek found the back of the net in both previous games against the Penguins this season. He’s scored a goal in each of the two games against Pittsburgh.

“For a big guy he moves really well,” Scuderi said. “He’s going real smooth. He’s going real fast. It doesn’t look like it. He always has his head up. He’s always looking for plays, whether it be a shot for himself or a pass to his teammates. He’s always dangerous.”

> Therrien was late for his post-morning skate press conference. He had a meeting with one of his players but apologized to the media.

“Sorry, I was caught in a meeting with a player,” he said. “As you know, my priority is to my players.”

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