“I feel pretty good and felt really good on the ice,” Bennett said afterward. “Hopefully it just progresses into playing next game.”
Bennett has had some awful luck over the last couple of seasons when it comes to injuries, and this one was particularly freakish as he sustained it while celebrating his first goal of the year in the Pens’ 3-2 loss to Montreal on Oct. 13.
“It’s very unique the way the injury happened, but as the game is, anything can happen,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “Sometimes for Beau, that’s the way it goes.”
Bennett joked afterward that this incident won’t deter him from scoring goals.
“Learned to keep my arms down and celebrate less, I guess,” he said.
Bennett said the injury was annoying more than anything, as he was able to start skating on his own and get back in the gym just two days later – which helped him stay positive mentally.
“Once I talked with the trainers, they said it’s something that happens, it’s something a lot of guys go through and I was back on the ice in two days,” Bennett said. “I was in the gym working on my legs two days after, so I didn’t take any time off, really. I think that was the main thing in feeling good today on the ice.”
Bennett wasn’t limited at all out there today, as he said participating in full practice was the last step in his recovery.
“Today was the last step, just pushing and shoving and battling,” Bennett explained. “We battled for 30 minutes out there, me and Eric Fehr. Didn’t notice anything off. Felt really good in the corners and felt up to speed and up to tempo, so that’s all the main keys.”
Bennett said as soon as the coaches want him to play, he thinks he’ll be ready to go.
“He looked really good today. Hopefully we have an encouraging practice from him on Tuesday and then we’ll go from there,” Johnston said.
Bennett had gotten off to a strong start this year. He put in a ton of work this summer to report to training camp healthy and in the best shape of his young career after a couple of injury-plagued seasons, and that commitment paid off as he was one of the Pens’ best players during the preseason and the first three games of the year before getting sidelined.
Johnston is confident that Bennett is going to pick up right where he left off when he returns to the lineup.
“I expect he’s going to come back the same,” Johnston said. “He’s handled a lot through his career here as far as adversity with injuries. So he knows how to handle that. It’s not like last year, where he had a setback early and was really discouraged by it. I see Beau now, he worked out hard in the gym through the summer, he’s worked out with Andy now in his rehab now with our trainers. So I think you’ll see a different way with him coming back in. I’m encouraged because of how he finished. I expect to see the same.”
FEHR AND RUST UPDATES
Johnston said there’s a possibility forward Eric Fehr could make his Penguins debut as soon as this weekend.
Fehr, who signed a three-year deal with the team on July 28, underwent elbow surgery on June 3 and has been out of the lineup since.
“I feel strong,” said Fehr, who began practicing with the team on Oct. 15. “I feel better than I did the second half of last season. I want to play when I get off of injured-reserve. That’s my goal right now and I definitely think that’s a possibility.”
Johnston has liked Fehr’s progress over the past few weeks, and it certainly seems he’s close to playing his first game as a Pittsburgh Penguin.
“He’s been in contact for about a week,” Johnston said. “He’s been taking the drills full out. It’s really encouraging to see where he’s at right now.”
Johnston also provided an update on Bryan Rust, who left early in the second period of Saturday’s game in Nashville after blocking a shot and did not return.
“’Rusty’ is going to be out,” Johnston said. “We haven’t determined a timeline on it, but he’s going to be out and it’s not going to be day-to-day. I should have a better timeline probably in the next day or two.”
FUN END TO PRACTICE
The Pens ended practice with an angling drill that was very entertaining to watch. It started with the players split into two teams, with each one lined up along the boards on either side of the red line.
“Essentially both guys are supposed to go touch the blue line and then wherever they put the puck, that guy is on offense and the other guy is supposed to come up and angle him without skating backwards,” Ian Cole explained to me afterwards.
“It’s kind of hard because as a defenseman, we were talking about it like you want to come get a gap, turn around, skate backwards and play it like a 1-on-1. But you have to try and stay skating forwards. It’s kind of a weird drill, as defensemen, we want our forwards to be able to take good angles skating forwards, routing yourself in and then back, keeping a good angle. It was one of those things Johnston wanted us to work on.”
It was hilarious watching so many odd couples go 1-on-1. For example, Rob Scuderi carried in on Sidney Crosby while Phil Kessel turned Daniel Sprong inside out.
At one point, Kessel got slightly clipped by Olli Maatta’s stick and faked out the young D-man by pretending to be hurt before getting up and sprinting to the puck before Maatta could react. They both were cracking up as their turn ended. Overall, it looked like the guys had a blast – and the crowd in the stands appreciated it.
“It ended up being fun because we were keeping score for shots on net, goals, and then any time you let a guy cut to the middle he got a point,” Cole said.
Cole was the hero of the drill, as he first beat Sprong and then deked backhand on Jeff Zatkoff to win the game for his team.