The nets at Tuesday's skate at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex had a lot more presence in front of them, as wingers Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz both returned to team practice.
"They both bring a lot of energy," Sidney Crosby said. "They bring things at both ends of the ice too. They're solid defensively and forecheck hard. Other teams know when they're out there as far as with the way they play physically and other teams in front of their net and those things. The sooner (they return to the lineup) the better."
Defenseman Derrick Pouliot also skated with the team. Below are updates on each player…
Head coach Mike Sullivan said that barring any setbacks, they are hopeful Hornqvist will be in the lineup on Wednesday against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center.
Hornqvist, who skated on his usual line with Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary and practiced in his usual spot on the top power-play unit, said he'll be a game-time decision.
"Obviously I'll travel with the team and do the morning skate and go from there," he said.
Hornqvist has missed the last six games with a concussion. He suffered the injury in Pittsburgh's 7-1 loss to Washington on Nov. 16 when he went down to block a shot from Brooks Orpik that hit him in the side of the head.
"That's bad luck," Hornqvist said.
When he does return to the lineup, Hornqvist said nothing is going to change about his game despite the nature of his injury.
"If I feel healthy enough tomorrow and they put me in, I'm going to be the same type of player I was before," he said. "I love to go to the net and create those scrums and be hard on the fore check. I can't change my game. The first few shifts you want to get hit and you want to hit someone to make sure you're in the game."
Kunitz has missed the last four games with a lower-body injury that Sullivan said would be week-to-week. And while Kunitz - who is currently on the injured reserve - said he won't be ready to play on Wednesday, he's certainly making progress.
"It's nice to be back out there and get a little flow," he said. "I haven't been on the ice too much as of late, but it's one of those things you have to see how your body responds, how you feel. Obviously there's more improvement to go and I'm taking it day-by-day."
Sullivan confirmed that Kunitz is getting a whole lot closer to returning to game action.
"He has not been cleared to play to this point, but he's that much closer because he's joined the team, he's practicing with the team and he's not limited," Sullivan said. "He's at full contact. We'll see how he responds to the practice today and we'll make decisions accordingly, but he's a whole lot closer."
Pouliot skated with the team after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Monday following a three-game conditioning stint.
"I feel good, really good," he said. "I'm getting back into the swing of things. Every day it gets a little bit better."
According to Sullivan, Pouliot - who was injured in his season debut on Oct. 20 versus San Jose - had a good weekend with WBS.
"Ideally, I'd like to get him into a practice or two here to see how he does and ultimately, he needs clearance from our doctors before we can put him back in the lineup," Sullivan said. "But he's getting a whole lot closer as well."
In non-injury lineup news, Sullivan said that defenseman Brian Dumoulin will play on Wednesday after being a healthy scratch for Saturday's 4-3 shootout win over New Jersey.
"As I've said all along here, he's a very good player," Sullivan said. "He's a big part of this team. We're trying to help him get to his A-game and that's when he helps us win. So sometimes as a young player it's not a bad thing to take a step back, to watch a game from the press box.
"It's a completely different vantage point, it's a whole different perspective up there. I spoke to him about areas of our game that he should watch in particular that may give him some perspective when he goes back into the lineup. We're hoping that it will be a helpful experience for him."
Dumoulin confirmed that it was.
"You can take it two ways," he told me. "You can take it hard and dwell on it or you can try to learn from it and get better. For me, I'm always trying to get better. There's still a lot of games to be played and hopefully this little blip can just be, not a wakeup call, but just a short-term thing to hopefully help in a big way in the long term. I just need to get back to playing my game and having fun."
One part of his game that Dumoulin said needs to improve is his consistency.
"Mike's an honest guy," Dumoulin said. "He's going to tell you how it is. But he's fair. I think in my recent games I need to be more consistent. I think the expectations are high, especially with the year that we just had and he knows the type of player that I am and knows I can bring it on a more consistent basis. I think that's something that I got to do going forward. Obviously you can take it two ways and I just need to be better at a more consistent level and I will be."