The Pittsburgh Penguins held practice in Chicago at Johnny’s Icehouse West on Saturday afternoon prior to Sunday’s matinee matchup with the Blackhawks.
Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (concussion protocol) was on the ice for his first practice with the team since being knocked out of the lineup after hitting his head on the ice Jan. 28 at Washington.
Ehrhoff, who has missed the past seven games, only took part in partial practice. He left the ice when the team began doing contact drills. He will skate again on his own Sunday morning prior to the game.
“The next step is to see how he reacted to that,” Johnston said. “With these concussion-like symptoms they want to see how you interact with other guys on the ice and then you get to the contact next. We’ll see what the doctors have to say.”
The only absent player from the practice was defenseman Paul Martin. He suffered an undisclosed injury Wednesday night against Detroit, but was able to play in Ottawa the following evening.
“We weren’t sure heading into Ottawa if he was going to be able to play that game,” Johnston said. “He played and we just decided with where he is at with the injury that we’d give him another day off, but it’s been moving along quite good.”
Martin will be in the lineup Sunday against Chicago.
POOR THIRD PERIODS The Blackhawks have been winning a lot of games with third-period comebacks lately. That’s bad news for the Pens, who have taken their foot off the gas in the third period of their past two wins.
Finishing a full 60 minutes and closing teams out is something that the coaching staff has addressed to the team, though they feel it’s more of an anomaly than a trend.
“If you look at us over the course of the year, (losing leads) is unusual for our team,” Johnston said. “Our record is 22-2-1 when leading in the third. To give up a lead (to Ottawa) is very uncharacteristic of our team. We addressed what happened.
“We were tentative in the neutral zone. We didn’t jump on Ottawa with our forecheck in the neutral zone. It almost looked like we were defending.”
LINEUP DECISIONS Dealing with a healthier lineup for the first time all season, the Pens have to make tough decisions on which players to scratch. The last three games have seen Beau Bennett, Zach Sill and Steve Downie out.
“We have healthy bodies now so there are decisions to make on who’s going to be in and who’s going to be out,” Johnston said. “That gives us some flexibility that we haven’t had in the last little while. Will it be Downie and Sill (rotating)? No, not necessarily. That’s just what we did the last two games.”
WORKFLOW The Pens used the following workflow at practice…