WASHINGTON, D.C. – Penguins forward Beau Bennett’s slow and steady recovery from a hand/wrist injury took another step forward in the positive direction.
Bennett, 22, returned to full team practice Sunday night at Verizon Center and feels that he is very close from returning to the lineup.
“My target (to return) is sometime in the next week, week and a half,” Bennett said. “It’s a day-by-day thing. If I have no setbacks I’ll take a new step every day.
“I feel pretty good. I feel good getting back with the team. It does a lot for the mental side of things.”
Bennett will visit with the doctors next weekend and his status will be determined at that time.
“Until (Bennett sees the doctor) there isn’t a return (date) to play,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “That’s on the horizon for Beau, next weekend. We’ll go from there once he’s been evaluated by the doctor at that point in time.”
Bennett originally suffered the injury Nov. 22 in a 4-3 win against the New York Islanders. Bennett underwent surgery three days later. Bennett has been skating on his own since Jan. 9.
“I want to come back and make an impact,” Bennett said. “I know I missed a lot of time. These guys are in midseason form and I feel like I haven’t even started the season yet. It’ll be interesting that first game coming back and getting the timing down.”
On Feb. 25 the Pens announced that Bennett suffered a “setback” and the team put him on a 3-4 week timeframe for return. It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since that announcement.
“It set me back a little bit,” Bennett said. “I had to take some time off to let it recover. I’m feeling pretty good right now and firing the puck pretty well.”
Bennett, the Penguins’ first-round pick in 2010 (20th overall), has played in 12 games this season for Pittsburgh, scoring one goal and three points.
“He hasn’t played a lot of hockey,” Bylsma said. “He’s got to get back in and find some playing time and game time to know where he’s at.”
SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS The Penguins boarded an early flight from Anaheim at 9 a.m. After five hours in the air the team landed in Washington, D.C. and headed straight to Verizon Center for a 7:30 p.m. practice.
“I don’t even know what time it is anymore to be honest with you,” captain Sidney Crosby joked after practice. “It’s good to get a skate after a long flight. It feels good coming back to the Eastern time zone and getting some exercise. It’s good to get out here and shake the legs a little bit.”
PRACTICE NOTES Along with Bennett, the Penguins also had several injured players present and taking part in practice. Robert Bortuzzo (upper-body) and Brian Gibbons (lower-body), whom were both injured Thursday night in San Jose and did not play Friday against Anaheim, were on the ice for practice.
Chris Conner (hand) continued to practice with the team.
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) did not partake in the practice.