Penguins winger Beau Bennett practiced with the team on Monday at Southpointe for the first time since being placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury retroactive to Oct. 12, and will do so again on Tuesday.
And while coach Dan Bylsma said there is currently no timetable for Bennett’s return to game action, saying “he’s got to work his way back with more practice time than just tomorrow for a return to play,” Bennett was pleased with how today went.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” said Bennett, who started skating on his own on Oct. 20 and had been doing on-ice workouts with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. “A lot stronger than I was three weeks ago. It was kind of ramping up the skating with coach Kadar these last couple days and it felt good to get out there with the guys and be around the guys again.
“I think just getting back your breathing and that game shape (is what’s left). I feel pretty close. I felt good out there today.”
For now, Bennett – who has missed the last 10 games – said the plan is to go day-by-day.
“I think we’re just going day-by-day based upon on how I feel,” he said. “It’s not really clear-cut right now, but based on how I felt today, I felt good and we’ll just take tomorrow and see where I’m at.”
After having Sunday off, the Pens had a long practice session today – skating for nearly an hour-and-a-half and doing lots of drills in tight spaces, like battles in the corner and in-zone scrimmages. And Bennett, who stayed on the ice for nearly two hours, said that kind of work is key for his return to game shape.
“I think what gets overlooked when you take time off is not so much being out of shape, but losing your awareness on the ice,” he said. “And it’s good to get out there and do those two-on-twos and be able to see where guys are at and defensively, be sound positionally.”
He also said speed is another tough part of the game to get back, but he's working on it now in the team practices.
“You know, you think you’re going fast when you’re out there by yourself just skating around with Kadar, but there’s definitely a different level in-game and it takes time,” he said. “But I felt good out there in practice today and I think it will only get better going forward.”
Bylsma said that winger James Neal, who has been on injured reserve and listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury, skated on his own this morning for an extended period of time and will do so again on Tuesday.
Chris Kunitz had a maintenance day and did not practice with the team. Also absent were Chuck Kobasew, who was given a 3-4 week recovery time after being injured on Oct. 28 vs. Carolina, and of course, Rob Scuderi and Tomas Vokoun. Matt D’Agostini filled in for Kunitz on the top line. Here’s how they looked…
Light blue: Glass-Sutter-Adams