“I feel good,” Crosby said following his group's practice. “It’ll be good to get in a game and get back in there. It’s been a while.”
Crosby wasn't expected to practice at the beginning of camp, but surprised everyone – including his head coach – when he participated in the team's first on-ice practice last Friday (Sept. 19). However, after that he did not get back on the ice until this Monday, skating with injured players before practice. Crosby returned to full practice Tuesday, participating in every drill without limitations, and has been skating ever since.
“In practice, I think I’m in as good of shape as I can be,” Crosby said. “Until you kind of get in games, it’s really hard to get that (game shape). At this point, I might have played one or two preseason games by now. But I think ultimately, I’ll end up playing the same thing anyways, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”
While Kunitz has actually been on the ice every day except one this past week, he still feels like he’s behind not getting any game action yet – and is looking forward to getting back on track.
“Any time you miss, you’re behind,” he said. “For the guys that play the games, everything’s kind of slowing down, it doesn’t feel so fast for them. They’re doing those 5-on-5’s and in-zone, it feels like a lot of guys in there right now. So got to make sure you work hard in practice and try to pick that speed up quick.”
Crosby prefers to get 2-3 exhibition games to get his timing and conditioning back. Kunitz, meanwhile, said “the more, the better.”
“That’s why it’s disappointing not getting to be out there for the first three, but got to make the best of your opportunity,” he said. “Make sure you’re working hard in practice and games when you get out there.”
Winger Beau Bennett had to be helped off the ice by his teammates near the end of Friday’s Group 1 practice. After the skate, Johnston explained what happened.
“He was in the drill as you saw, and when he was skating across the ice, (Kasperi) Kapanen’s skate clipped him on the back of the heel and so he spun around in an awkward manner and went down on the ice … He went to get checked out, so we’ll have an update this afternoon. Early indications are it wasn’t as bad as it looked, that it may have been just the reaction to what happened.”
Johnston also provided a couple of other injury updates…
* Robert Bortuzzo left Thursday’s game early and did not practice this morning, and right now, his status is listed as day-to-day. “We’ll see his progress over I would say the next 3-4 days. We’ll have a pretty good indication if it’s going to extend anything long-term. It was a hit down by their bench, so it didn’t look all that bad when I reviewed it this morning. So we’ll just see how he progresses here.”
* Daniel Carcillo was the only other Penguin listed in one of the two groups who didn’t participate in a practice on Friday. Johnston expects Carcillo to take part in full practice on Saturday with the non-game group and again on Sunday, with the hope he’ll play Monday in Minnesota.
* Pascal Dupuis will not play Saturday vs. Columbus. “We’re still at the timeline on him where we’re hoping he’ll be available for us on Monday.”
* Evgeni Malkin was not listed on either of today’s practice rosters, and Johnston provided a detailed update on his status.
“He’s not skating or working out right now. I expect that he will be over this next 4-5 days. I know I’ve said that before; it just seems to be one of those things where if I believed it was going to be long-term, I’d tell you it was long-term but I believe it’s not going to be long-term. But it’s still a few days away before he’s going to be able to work out and be on the ice. So in that mindset, I know he had a hard summer of training because I was over there (in Russia) and I watched him train, so I’m excited to at least know his conditioning is at a high level. Much like Sid. Sid was out, but you watched him practice. He came back to practice and it looks like he wasn’t out at all. So Geno is going to have a little bit more catchup, but we’ve been doing video work with him, so at least he knows how we want to play and what changes there are, what adjustments he has to make.”
The team had two practice sessions on Friday, with the first beginning at 10:30 a.m. and the second at 11:45 a.m. Group 1 did line rushes to start practice. Here’s how they looked…
PP1: Ehrhoff, Letang, Crosby, Hornqvist, Kunitz.
PP2: Martin, Maatta, Bennett, Dupuis, Sutter.
Group 2 consisted of Dumoulin, Ebbett, Leblond, McNeill, Farnham, Chorney, Uher, Sundqvist, Megna, Zatkoff.