The Pens received some good and bad news on the injury front.
The bad news, forward Conor Sheary will be out 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury. The good news is that Matt Cullen appears to be close to returning to the lineup after missing 6 games with a broken foot.
The loss of Sheary is certainly a tough blow, both for the Pens and for Sheary himself. The 24-year-old winger is in the midst of a career year with 17 goals and 35 points while solidifying a spot alongside captain Sidney Crosby.
"(Sheary is) having a real good year. It's a tough one for us," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "Our depth will be tested. We've got guys that can step up. We know we have guys that can fill different roles. That's been one of the strengths of this team. It will continue to be a strength."
The Pens have several options on who could replace Sheary on Crosby's line. Among them are Jake Guentzel, Chris Kunitz, Carl Hagelin or even Scott Wilson. Of course, Sullivan wouldn't tip his hand on the team's plans, though he did offer up what he wants from someone in that position.
"A guy that has some hockey sense that can play that give-and-go game with Sid that Sid excels at," Sullivan said. "We're going to look for someone that can compliment Sid."
As for Cullen, he took part in his first full practice since breaking his foot while blocking a shot against Washington on Jan. 16.
"It's feeling good. It's always a nice step when you get out with the team, get on the ice with the guys and back up to game speed," Cullen said. "I'm happy with how it's progressing. It's probably a little ahead of schedule. We'll see how the week goes."
Sullivan did not rule Cullen out for either of this weekend's back-to-back games against Columbus (Friday) or at St. Louis (Saturday).
"The weekend is in play," Sullivan said. "It's a big step that (Cullen) joined the practice. He felt pretty good. We'll see how he progresses and how he responds today. He'll practice with us (Thursday) and then we'll make decisions from there."
Cullen, 40, feels that his conditioning is good enough to return to the lineup.
"I've been able to do quite a bit conditioning-wise off of the ice," Cullen said. "I've skated 4 days out of the last 6 or so. I feel like it's coming back pretty good."
Other notes and updates:
*Evgeni Malkin skated in the morning with Ty Hennes and is expected to skate again Thursday morning as he continues to progress.
*Phil Kessel had a maintenance day.
*Sidney Crosby was forced to take a day off by the coaching staff. "We hid his skate," Sullivan said.