Penguins Welcome More Injured Players Back to Practice
/ Pittsburgh Penguins
Morning skates are usually a tool for players to get their legs ready for the game later that night, but Monday’s practice proved to have more significance for the Penguins as the team continued to reverse the injury hex placed on them in November by welcoming Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Alex Goligoski back onto the ice.
Crosby sat out Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks with a sore groin, the first game he has missed in 2009-10, but pronounced himself ready to go against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m.
“I have had a couple days,” Crosby said. “There is no more pain. That is all I really wanted to get rid of.
“With groins, you are always kind of feeling them during the season. I feel good enough to play.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma was certainly pleased to be able to pencil the name of the league’s second-leading goal scorer and third-highest point producer onto his lineup card.
“We weighed our options and we decided we’d let him play,” Bylsma said. “He hopefully continues to progress and we’re preparing to have him in the lineup. So that makes us a little better.”
While Crosby’s injury was never thought to be too serious – he said so himself on Saturday when it was announced he would sit against the Blackhawks – the same cannot be said for the injuries to Kunitz and Goligoski.
“They’re both progressing,” Bylsma said. “Chris and Alex have been skating for a handful of days on their own.
“(Monday) was back with the team for the first day, both positive signs and both progressing with the help of (head athletic trainer) Chris Stewart and (team physical therapist) Mark Mortland.”
Kunitz, whose 12 points (3G-9A) ranked fourth on the team at the time of his injury, has missed 11 straight games with a lower-body injury. Monday marked the first time he skated with his teammates since a loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 12.
“It feels nice to be back out there with my teammates again,” Kunitz said. “I have only skated a few times so it is nice to be able to go out there and participate in the team skate.”
Kunitz was able to take part in all of the drills and didn’t appear as though there were any limitations on what he could do.
“Not really,” he said. “I am trying to pick up the speed of the game again. I am just trying to not do too much. I want to make sure I am all the way healed before I come back.”
Despite fully participating in Monday’s session there is still a process Kunitz must follow leading up to his return as he continues to rehab his injury while getting back into game shape.
“The trainers will let me know day-to-day what I can do next or how much my workload is going to be,” Kunitz said. “You want to be out there all the time but it is still just day-to-day.
“Right now it is just making sure you feel good the next day and that you aren’t straining things too much. …. I have missed enough games that I don’t want to have to do extra so I am just trying to get back as fast as I can.”
Goligoski, the Penguins’ leading scorer among defensemen with 16 points (6G-10A) in 21 games, has sat out nine of the team’s past 10 contests with an undisclosed injury. He appears on track to return to the lineup sooner than Kunitz according to Bylsma’s post-practice comments.
“They’re on different timelines, but hopefully we’ll see Alex soon,” Bylsma said.
Just like Kunitz, Goligoski was happy to resume skating with his teammates after a couple weeks of skating on his own prior to practice.
“It is always fun to get back out there with the guys after you have been skating and working out on your own trying to get healthy,” Goligoski said. “It was definitely a step in the right direction.”
Goligoski said that he had no problems with his first practice since seeing 21:16 of ice time in an 8-3 defeat of the New York Rangers on Nov. 28, his only game action since Nov. 14 against Boston. He seemed to agree with Bylsma’s assessment that his return could come sooner, rather than later.
“I feel good,” Goligoski said. “It was good to get back out there with the team … I feel like I am getting better every day so hopefully soon.”