Penguins forwards Brandon Sutter and Joe Vitale participated in practice on Wednesday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center.
Both Sutter and Vitale left Pittsburgh’s 4-3 series clinching win against Columbus in Game 6 Monday night at Nationwide Arena in the third period. Neither player returned in the game and no update was given on their status following the contest.
Per team policy, head coach Dan Bylsma wouldn’t elaborate on any specifics regarding the two players, but both were glad to be on the ice.
“I’m happy with the way it’s gone the last two days,” Sutter said. “I’m feeling pretty good and it shouldn’t be a problem going forward.”
Sutter did return to the Penguins bench late in the third period, but “wasn’t able to play,” according Bylsma.
Vitale was hurt after he collided knee-to-knee with Blake Comeau. Both players remained on the ice and required the assistance of athletic trainers to get to the locker room.
“It was a good, I feel good, feel strong,” Vitale said. “It was a scare what happened. I’m taking it one day at a time. I woke today and felt great, felt good enough to skate and felt good out there.”
“The way Joe was injured and left the ice you worry,” Bylsma said. “By the time we got on the plane he was feeling differently than when he left the ice.”
The play started after Comeau hit Pittsburgh’s Beau Bennett in the corner. Vitale followed with a check of his own on Comeau. Then the two players skated into the slot area when they hit each other’s knee.
“I was coming across the ice and was focused on the puck. I don’t know if I turned at the wrong time or he turned at the wrong time or a combination of both,” Vitale said of the play. “I wasn’t sticking my knee out, that’s not the kind of player I am, especially at that time of the game. I wouldn’t want to hurt anybody or hurt myself or put anyone in jeopardy. We just got tangled. Freak accident. I hope he’s OK. I’m obviously Ok moving forward.”
The loss of Sutter and Vitale impacted the Penguins during the third period. The team played without two centers and had only 10 forwards.
“We missed having both of those guys on our bench and on the ice,” Bylsma said. “Hopefully, seeing them on the ice today is an indication that they’re good.”
Defenseman Brooks Orpik was the only player that did not take part in the team’s practice. He missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury.
The Penguins did not practice in rushes or pairings. But they did work on their power play, which appeared to have no changes.
PP1: Niskanen, Martin, Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz
PP2: Maatta, Letang, Stempniak, Jokinen, Neal.
While Orpik was not on the ice, his presence was felt…in cardboard form.
Cardboard Orpik made a triumphant return to the ice. And he was his usual shot blocking self.
Cardboard Orpik’s No. 1 fan is goaltender Jeff Zatkoff who yelled, “That’a way Brooksy!” after blocking a Crosby slap shot.
Cardboard Orpik forces James Neal to shoot wide
Cardboard Orpik sacrifices his cardboard body by blocking a Crosby shot