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Pens Report: 3.20.17

by Nicole Jelinek / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens held an optional practice on Monday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena coming off of their 4-0 win on Sunday afternoon against the Florida Panthers.

On the ice today was Chad Ruhwedel, Scott Wilson, Cameron Gaunce, Carter Rowney, Derrick Pouliot, Patric Hornqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Murray and Bryan Rust.

Rust returned to practice on Saturday in a red no-contact jersey after being out the last 17 games with an upper-body injury that occurred on February 9 at Arizona. He skated by himself before Sunday's game and felt good after today's session.

"I'm feeling better," he said. "Each day is a new day. I am definitely getting better with each day and hopefully I am back here sooner rather than later."

Rust said that despite being in a regular black jersey for the optional practice, he has not had any contact and that will be his next step.

"I felt like I was as close to as I can get to 100 percent, but I haven't had any contact yet, so I think that's the next step," he said.

While Rust wouldn't confirm when he will return to the lineup, he said he has a game set in his mind that he is aiming to get back for.

"I have been antsy for a few weeks now," he admitted. "Just watching all of these games, it gets to be a little bit of a bummer. I am itching to get back in there."

Head coach Mike Sullivan provided some updates on other injured players like Evgeni Malkin, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained on March 15 at Philadelphia that has kept him out of the last two games.

"Geno is making progress, but we are not going to take him to Buffalo," Sullivan said. "He is going to stay back. We think it's a better situation for him to stay here and rehab, so we made that decision."

Sullivan said Malkin won't play against the Sabres and they will go from there, meaning he isn't necessarily ruled out for Thursday in Ottawa.

Sullivan added that defensemen Olli Maatta (14 games, upper body) and Kris Letang (11 games, upper body) are making progress as well.

"They are skating," Sullivan said. "They are making progress. There is nothing that I can offer as far as significant change, other than they are making progress and they are going through the process they've been going through to rehab."

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