After a day off on Monday, the Pens took the ice for practice on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.
They had positive news in terms of injuries, as Jake Guentzel (concussion) and Ron Hainsey (upper body) both skated in light blue no-contact jerseys while Conor Sheary (lower body) practiced in a regular black jersey.
Here's an update on each player…
* Sheary left midway through the first period of Sunday's 6-2 loss to Philadelphia after suffering a lower-body injury on a play in the offensive zone.
Sheary said today he actually thought he would be able to return to the game right away, but the medical staff opted to hold him out for precautionary reasons.
"Today was kind of a test day," he said. "I felt pretty good out there. More of just a precautionary thing to make sure things didn't get worse last game. But I feel good today."
He admitted to feeling a sense of relief that it didn't seem to be anything serious, especially after recently missing 13 games with an upper-body injury.
"I feel like injuries have been piling up for our team and for me individually, so I kind of avoided a scare there," Sheary said. "So it was good."
* Guentzel was injured in the Pens' 3-1 win over Buffalo on March 21 following a check from Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Guentzel was backing out of the defensive zone when Ristolainen nailed him with a hip check, even though he did not have the puck.
The collision jarred and bloodied Guentzel, who struggled to get back on his feet. Ristolainen was given a 5-minute interference major and game-misconduct, and the NHL Department of Player Safety then handed down a three-game suspension.
Guentzel said he was just looking to move on from the incident, saying "I'm not going to go too much into it, it's just kind of protocol to go off the ice and obviously the doctors took me out of the game."
Guentzel is now symptom-free and had been skating on his own the last couple of days before joining the team this morning. There is no timeline for his return.
"Just got to see how I feel and obviously it's a day by day thing," he said. "I haven't been through it (before), so you just got to be safe with it."
* Hainsey was injured in Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss to Philadelphia on March 15. He was listed as week-to-week and has missed the last five games. This is the first significant time he has missed due to injury since the 2011-12 season.
"Injuries happen," he said. "Obviously this team here, we have a lot of them. It's been five and a half years since I've really missed any games for injury. Obviously timing isn't great but it's a contact sport, these things happen. Practiced today, so I'm getting closer to being back."
While it's frustrating, especially for someone who has yet to participate in an NHL postseason, Hainsey said he has plenty of time to recover before the playoffs begin.
"If it was a 6-to-8 week injury or something like that it'd be much more dire," he said. "So we've got a little time left here in the regular season to get dialed in here."
Here's more news and notes from practice…
* Matt Cullen and Chad Ruhwedel were the only expected absences.
"Cully was sick today, so that's why he stayed home," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "Chad Ruhwedel has an upper-body injury. That's the reason that he didn't play the other night. His status is day to day."
When asked about the status of Evgeni Malkin and if his upper-body injury was more serious than they originally thought, Sullivan responded "No."
"As I've said here, our medical staff has a good handle on it and he's going through a process both on and off the ice," Sullivan said. "He skated this morning and he's making progress, and so we're encouraged and we're hopeful we'll get him back sooner than later."
* Sullivan ended practice by speaking to the team in his usual passionate and intense manner. I asked him afterward what his message was to his players heading into these final two weeks of the season.
"We talked to the group today just about making sure we have the right mindset going into each game," he said. "Our experience has been that you don't just flick a switch and turn it on, and we're going to have to go into each game with the right mindset in trying to win. And a lot of it is just focusing on the details of how we're trying to play and then a compete level. And so that's where our focus is, just the attention to detail as far as our team concept, our compete level shift in and shift out and the consistency of that. And I think as long as our focus stays in those areas, then our team will be in the optimal frame of mind here going down the stretch."
* With so many players in and out of the lineup, the Pens equipment staff has had to move locker stall assignments around. Today, Guentzel was set up in a chair in the front corner of the room - something he joked he welcomed since he's usually next to Sidney Crosby.
If Guentzel comes into the room at the same time as Crosby, he usually will go sit down next to a teammate elsewhere in the room since the crowd of reporters around the Pens captain spills over into his stall. It's something the guys always have a laugh about.
"I try to stay out of their way," Crosby said with a smile. "I mean, today it doesn't matter, they're not here. A lot of times I'm out there on the ice, but I think with some of the younger guys, they stay out there pretty long too. So usually I try to shift over depending on what's available on each side, but it's probably not the best seat to have, but they handle it well. They might complain when they leave the rink (laughs), but they don't complain to me."