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The Inside Scoop: Fleury, Letang Practice

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens’ medical report had a nice boost for their Tuesday afternoon practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and defenseman Kris Letang (cautionary) were both on the ice and took part in full practice.

“There’s really no timetable on (Fleury),” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “The fact that he’s taking shots now, we’ll see how he responds. That’s progress.

“Kris had a pretty good practice today, which is progress from our standpoint. We’ll see how he responds to the practice today and how he is in the morning. We’ll make decisions from there.”

Fleury, who took shots in practice for the first time since suffering from concussion-like symptoms, has missed the past six games. Though Fleury has skated, it had been over two weeks since he stopped pucks.

“I felt pretty good, a little slow, a little rusty, but it was fun though,” Fleury said.

Fleury first felt symptoms against the Los Angeles Dec. 11 following a hit to the head. He didn’t feel well the following days, but took another hit to the head in practice. Following the Pens’ game against Washington Dec. 14 he alerted the Pens’ medical staff that he hadn’t been feeling well.

“The first time I got hit (against LA) I didn’t feel so good,” Fleury said. “After that night (against Washington) I knew something was wrong.”

Letang has appeared in only three games in December due to various injuries. He returned to the lineup Saturday in Minnesota after missing six games with an upper-body injury.

Letang left the Minnesota game in the third period after receiving a hit to the head by Wild forward Jarret Stoll. Letang returned to finish the game, but he wasn’t feeling well the following morning. The Pens held him out of their Sunday night contest in Winnipeg for precautionary reasons.

The Pens have no concerns that Letang has a concussion, but are still proceeding with caution.

“Kris’ health is our first priority,” Sullivan said. “That was the reasoning behind the decision to hold him out in Winnipeg. That is the first priority for this team, his personal health.”

The only player absent from practice was center Matt Cullen.

“That was a maintenance day,” Sullivan said of Cullen.

The Pens used the following workflow…


Fleury, Zatkoff and Murray rotated in the pipes.

The Pens’ practice on Tuesday was just the third full practice under new head coach Mike Sullivan. To put that in perspective, the Pens have already played seven games with Sullivan. And following the upcoming back-to-back contests against Toronto and Detroit on Wednesday and Thursday, that would be nine games played versus three practices.

“I thought we touched on three or four themes in the practice today that we’ve been talking about, but hadn’t had an opportunity to practice much of,” Sullivan said. “We had an opportunity to work on those things today.”

Odd scheduling quirks, the Christmas break and a lot of back-to-backs have resulted in many games and no practice opportunities. So Sullivan hasn’t had a lot of chances to implement his style and structure.

Tuesday was his third chance since taking over two-plus weeks ago.

“Hopefully, moving forward we’ll have an opportunity to have more substantive practices where we can actually work on certain aspects of our game,” Sullivan said.

Defenseman Ben Lovejoy wore a full-face shield at practice to protect his recent battle scar.

Lovejoy was cut on the face by the blade of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault in the third period of Sunday’s contest in Winnipeg.

“Everything is great,” Lovejoy said. “I’m not in much pain, a little bit of discomfort.”

All in all, Lovejoy considers himself lucky.

“My visor had a huge scratch in it from the skate,” he said. “If (the visor) isn’t there then that’s my eye.”

Lovejoy received stitches that took roughly an hour to administer by a team doctor.

Lovejoy took a puck to the face in the 2010-11 season, which caused his face to balloon and was highlighted on HBO’s Road to the Winter Classic series. This time around Lovejoy will be able to play through the scar.

“That hurt so much more and I couldn’t play with that because I had no peripheral vision; I couldn’t see down,” Lovejoy said. “This (current scar) doesn’t affect my vision at all. This will probably leave a much bigger mark, but I’m OK.”
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