Winger Chris Kunitz and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel returned to team practice on Sunday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex wearing yellow no-contact jerseys.
"When Chad and Kuni are joining us in practice they are that much closer," head coach Mike Sullivan said afterward. "That's really encouraging from our standpoint."
Kunitz missed the last five regular-season games and the entire First Round against Columbus with a lower-body injury. He's grateful for the days off the Pens are getting as they wait for the winner of the Washington-Toronto series, with Game 6 being played tonight.
"Just kind of how the schedule dictated, some of it has been in my favor," Kunitz said. "It's unfortunate I missed the first round. It was a great round against Columbus with some time in between, so I hope to get back soon.
"It's tough watching playoff hockey. Fortunately for me, my team moved on so it gave me a chance to hopefully get back in the lineup."
Kunitz said he had no issues on the ice today, and will see how he feels tomorrow.
"It's one of those things that you go out and evaluate the next day and talk to docs and trainers and let them know how you're feeling," Kunitz said. "It will depend on how many days we have here inbetween games and take it one day at a time."
That's the same mentality Ruhwedel is taking as he works to come back from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for the last two games of the regular season and the whole First Round.
"I've had good days and bad days throughout this recovery process, so we are trying to take it day by day," he said.
Ruhwedel, who also missed 20 games from Feb. 11 to March 23 due to injury, said today was a good day on the ice for him and added that it was nice to finally be doing team drills instead of individual ones.
"Just practice and trying to get in the game shape again, and hopefully get to do some more battle drills coming up in the near future," he said.
* During rushes, Kunitz filled in for Phil Kessel, who had a maintenance day. The lines looked like this…
Sullivan flipped Sheary and Hornqvist during Game 5 against the Blue Jackets, and said they're both really good players in their own right - they just bring a different dimension.
"He's a good defensive player, he's strong on the boards, he's a good shot blocker, he adds an element of muscle and compete and battle level to that line," Sullivan said of Hornqvist. "I think he's hard to play against. … 'Horny' has played with Sid a lot in my tenure here and so there's familiarity there. He's a guy we think can add that element to Sid's line if we think that line needs it at that particular time."