After taking part in two partial practices, forward Chris Kunitz completed his first full practice with contact Friday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center since being sidelined with a slight fracture in his foot.
Kunitz, who has missed the past eight games with the team after an X-ray showed the fracture, could return to the lineup Saturday night when the Penguins host the Florida Panthers.
“I talked to him in the trainers’ room. He feels like he’s ready,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “It’ll be a game-time decision, but he’s really close right now.”
Kunitz, 35, rejoined his teammates for practice on Wednesday, though he was limited to non-contact drills. Friday’s practice session was his first in a full capacity. Kunitz pushed his foot hard and worked on conditioning drills with assistant coach Rick Tocchet at the end of practice.
“We did everything on the ice with no problems,” Kunitz said. “If you’re out of the lineup you have to do whatever you can to get yourself back into game flow and game shape. I try to do some extra drills in practice, go out there tomorrow and hopefully there is a good reaction in the morning skate.”
Kunitz is fifth on the team in scoring with nine goals and 20 points despite playing in only 23 games. He’s second on the team in power-play goals with five.
“I feel fine. I’ve been feeling good every time I’m on the ice,” Kunitz said. “That’s why they let you go back out there. Hopefully, it responds well when I talk to the doc (Saturday) again. Hopefully, he’ll give me the green light to go back and play.”
The Pens announced today that defenseman Olli Maatta was diagnosed with the mumps. He is the third Pens player to be effected following Sidney Crosby (since cleared) and Beau Bennett.
Goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Thomas Greiss and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo tested negative for the mumps.
The Penguins practice was not optional, but several players were instructed by Johnston to take a maintenance day. Those players were Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Sutter, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi.
Injured players that weren’t at practice were Bennett (lower body, mumps), Bortuzzo (upper body), Christian Ehrhoff (lower body), Olli Maatta (upper body, mumps), Zach Sill (upper body) and Scott Wilson (leg).
Bortuzzo, who left Pittsburgh’s game in Columbus on Dec. 13 and sat out the past two contests, skated on his own prior to the team’s practice.
“The injury is lingering,” Johnston said of Bortuzzo. “I expect that he might be able to get into a game before we head into the Christmas break. He’s getting really close.”
The Penguins have three games before the break.
“It’s the process of getting back into practice,” Johnston said. “I’m hoping he might be able to take a game-day skate. If he can’t tomorrow then he’ll probably be unlikely for the next two games.”