Penguins winger Matt D’Agostini returned to team practice on Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury on Sept. 23.
He was hurt in the first period of Pittsburgh’s preseason game against Chicago, logging just 1:18 minutes of ice time before leaving the game. He was originally listed as day-to-day, but his injury did not progress as hoped and the Penguins announced on Oct. 2 that he had been placed on long-term injured reserve – meaning he must remain out for a minimum of 24 calendar days and 10 games.
So D’Agostini still has some time before he is eligible for a return, but in the meantime, he’s excited to take the next step of skating with his teammates after doing morning sessions with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar for some time now.
“It has been a long time so it feels good to do line rushes and stuff like that, to kind of get me back into game mode as quick as possible,” he said. “Still going to have a lot more time before I get into games, but felt good to get out there with the guys.”
In terms of the next step after this, D’Agostini said, “as long as I feel good and healthy I'll be out there with the guys and then we will go from there. “
It’s been a tough start for D’Agostini in his first season with the Penguins after signing a one-year, $550,000 deal with the team in the offseason.
Entering the season, head coach Dan Bylsma named D’Agostini as a top candidate to play on the third line. He skated there with Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen during training camp and was impressive during the scrimmages, but his momentum was derailed with the injury.
D’Agostini admitted that his situation has been frustrating, saying, “you want to come into a new situation and make a good impression right away and obviously getting off to a slow start.”
But he can only control what he can control, and right now that’s to work as hard as he can to get back into game action.
“Just doing my best in practice to prove myself and when I get my chance again, just go out there and play my game,” he said.
* Defenseman Kris Letang took the next step in his recovery from a lower-body injury by participating in his first full team practice on Wednesday.
He had been skating with his teammates since last Friday, but only in 30-minute sessions. Today, he remained on the ice for the entire duration of practice.
Bylsma called Letang and D'Agostini "two guys that are moving along in their return to play.”
Forwards James Neal (upper-body, week-to-week) and Beau Bennett (lower-body, day-to-day) were absent from practice.
Defenseman Olli Maatta left the ice at one point during practice, but returned about 10 minutes later. “Olli Maatta left the ice just to get checked,” Bylsma said. “He was right back out, don’t think it was anything significant.”
* The Pens wore colored jerseys for their skate. Here’s how they looked…
Gold: Vitale, Zolnierczyk, Engelland (filling in)
Blue: Jeffrey, D’Agostini
The other seven defensemen (Orpik, Martin, Scuderi, Niskanen, Bortuzzo, Maatta and Letang) rotated through their pairings.