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Penguins Roundup: 12/17/14

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skated on his own before practice today at CONSOL Energy Center, general manager Jim Rutherford said.

Crosby, who has missed the last three games, has passed the infectious period for the mumps. Today was the start of his on- and off-ice preparations to return to the team.

Head coach Mike Johnston said there is a chance that Crosby could return to the lineup Thursday when the Penguins host Colorado.

“He looked good on the ice,” Johnston said. “I watched him for a little bit. He worked full out, so it was a full skate. Worked with (strength and conditioning coach) Mike Kadar on some extra conditioning drills at the end. He looked fine.

“We’ll see for tomorrow. Not having skated for several days, that’s more of our concern then obviously his time of having the mumps, because the mumps virus is basically cleared for him.”

Rutherford also announced that Marc-Andre Fleury, Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maatta were not feeling well and were being tested for the mumps as a precaution. Manager of team operations Jim Britt filled in for Fleury at Wednesday’s practice, while the other two were already sidelined due to injury.

Rutherford said they will hopefully get those players’ results back by tomorrow (Thursday).

“All three of those players are in isolation,” Rutherford said. “Any time that anybody even starts to not feel well, even though it’s not mump-like symptoms, we’ve got the person or player out of here as soon as we can and either to a hotel room or back to their home.”

Rutherford was asked what changes the team has made in terms of sanitation.

“Just more in-depth sanitizing with everything that we use,” Rutherford said. “How the room is cleaned and sanitized and the equipment, for the visiting dressing room, for the officials’ room, for all the areas that anyone might be going through.”

Penguins winger Chris Kunitz, who has missed the last seven games with a foot fracture, returned to team practice on Wednesday.

“He was back to take all drills except for contact drills, so that was the normal step,” Johnston said. “So he was into really the first step of coming back into practice. Tomorrow he’ll do the game-day skate full out, then I don’t expect that he’s going to be playing at all tomorrow. And Friday will give us another chance to get a good quality practice for him.”

Kunitz joked about all of the unfamiliar faces on the ice today.

“Some new faces, guys that you haven’t played with,” Kunitz said. “Feels like I’ve been out a really long time but it’s only been two weeks. You never want to miss time, especially when you see the injuries piling up and you can go out there and help your team. But they happen. Everyone goes through them, so you’ve just got to make sure that you’re ready to go and have that energy as soon as you’re back.”

The break was discovered on Dec. 2 after doctors decided to take a closer look at his foot with an MRI, as it had been bugging him. Kunitz said right now, while his conditioning still needs work, overall he feels good and hopes to get some games in before Christmas.

“It’s something you evaluate every day and trying a little more every day to make sure you’re coming back completely healthy and not having to go back on the shelf,” he said. “So it’s something where I’m just taking it day-by-day."

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