CRANBERRY, Pa. – Pens winger Beau Bennett took part in portions of practice with his teammates Wednesday afternoon for the first time since suffering an upper-body Dec. 14 against the Washington Capitals.
“I feel pretty good,” Bennett said. “My legs felt really good out there. Just getting back and being around the boys is huge. Each day I’m making progress, and today was another good step in the right direction.”
Bennett is hopeful that he will be back in the Pens’ lineup before next weekend’s All-Star break, which would mean playing in one of Pittsburgh’s upcoming four games.
“My whole goal was playing before All-Star break,” Bennett said. “I’m looking forward to doing that hopefully. At a certain point it’s up to the coach’s seeing if I can plug back into the lineup.”
Bennett, who has been skating on his own for the past two weeks, took part in some contact drills, but also sat out a few.
“A couple drills I shied away from because I don’t want the D to back away when I’m out there,” Bennett said. “If I’m out there they have to play less than 100 percent. So some of the drills I didn’t partake in on my own accord. Going forward it will only get better.”
Bennett did not take part in line rushes, but he did see some work on the second power-play unit.
“I thought he looked good,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought he did pretty well for the first practice back.”
Bennett suffered the injury following a hit from Capitals forward T.J. Oshie. The Pens will play in Washington on Sunday afternoon.
PRACTICE INFO Defensemen Kris Letang (undisclosed injury) and David Warsofsky (concussion) were absent from practice.
“With Kris it will be a day-to-day process with him at this point,” Sullivan said. “It’s more a maintenance day. We kept him off the ice today and we’ll see how he responds tomorrow.”
POULIOT HOPES FOR A CHANCE One player for the Pens that hopes to find his way into the lineup is blueliner Derrick Pouliot. The Pens’ eighth-overall pick in 2012 was recalled to the team Monday morning.
“Everybody wants to be up here,” Pouliot said. “I wasn’t sure when it was going to be, but if now is the time, I’m happy to be here and hopefully I can contribute.”
“He brings a lot to the table,” Sullivan said. “He’s one of those guys that’s knocking on the door. He’s had a really good start to his season in Wilkes-Barre. If an opportunity presents itself at this level I’m sure he’s going to help us win.”
Pouliot, 22, led all Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defensemen and ranked seventh (tied) in the AHL with 23 points (6G-17A) at the time of his recall. He was selected to play in his second-consecutive AHL All-Star Classic.
“I think my game is taking steps in (WBS),” Pouliot said. “I feel like I’m in improving in some of the stuff (the organization) wants me to improve on. It’s been a pretty good season so far.”
Pouliot has played all season in WBS and started the year with Pens head coach Mike Sullivan. So the Pittsburgh bench boss knows what he’s getting if Pouliot were inserted into the lineup.
“I’ve seen a lot of Derrick this year,” Sullivan said. “I know what he’s capable of. I know what his strengths are. I think he’s made improvements in a lot of areas.
“I think Derrick has handle himself really well. He’s helped the power play down there. When I was there he was a big part of the power play success. He can really help a team come out of their end zone with his ability to make that first pass and see the ice.”
Pouliot played in 34 NHL games last year with Pittsburgh, totaling 2 goals and 7 points.