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The Inside Scoop: Player Updates, Schultz Reaction

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins


Evgeni Malkin did not practice on Sunday morning after returning to game action on Saturday afternoon against Winnipeg following a 10-game absence with a lower-body injury, but head coach Mike Sullivan said it was more of a maintenance day for the center.

Wingers Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust were also missing from the skate, but Sullivan said it was maintenance for them as well.

Sheary was shaken up after being checked into the boards from behind by Jets defenseman Tyler Myers early in the second period. He went to the locker room after the hit, and while he returned a few minutes later and took a couple of shifts, Sheary ended up sitting out the rest of the game.

“Obviously he got banged up in the game, didn’t finish the game but he responded really well,” Sullivan said. “He feels a lot better today, so it’s not a long-term thing.”

While forward Sergei Plotnikov also did not participate in practice, Sullivan said that it was a different circumstance for him.

“It’s more a management decision as far as flexibility surrounding the trade deadline,” Sullivan said of Plotnikov, who last played on Jan. 6 at Chicago and has been a healthy scratch ever since. “So he didn’t practice today and he will not practice with us tomorrow (heading into their game vs. Arizona).”


SCHULTZ REACTION
After the Pens locker room cleared out following their 4-1 win over the Jets, the team announced it had acquired defenseman Justin Schultz from Edmonton in exchange for a 2016 third-round draft pick.

While none of the current Penguins have ever been on a team with Schultz, they have played against him a number of times and know what his strengths are.

“We know that he’s really good with the puck and a guy who can get up in the rush,” Sidney Crosby told me. “We like to have our D join. It’ll be nice to have another guy who can do that.”

Nick Bonino was in the same division as Schultz when he was with both Anaheim and Vancouver, so he’s more familiar than most.

“I know he’s a really effective guy on the power play and he’s a very mobile defenseman, a puck-moving defenseman,” Bonino said. “Any time you get depth on your blue line for a playoff run and for the push here, I think that always helps a team.”

The 25-year-old played three-plus seasons in Edmonton – where he totaled 28 goals and 101 points in 248 regular-season games after signing with them – following three productive years at the University of Wisconsin, which made him a prized free agent the summer following his junior season.

Pens general manager Jim Rutherford said last night he hopes a change of scenery will do Schultz good, and Sullivan agrees.

“I don’t know a lot about him,” Sullivan said. “I’m aware, certainly, of his strengths as a player with his offensive instincts. He’s a very mobile guy. He was a highly touted guy coming out of Wisconsin. Obviously, it’s been a little bit of a struggle where he’s at in Edmonton.

“Our hope is that we can inspire him to play to his strengths, we can get him in with our defense group and start working with him to try to familiarize him with some of the team concepts and strategies in how we’re trying to play. But certainly, Jim and (associate general manager Jason Botterill) and our scouting staff feel strongly that he’s a guy that can really help us win here down the stretch.”

The guys are happy they didn't have to give up any roster players with the move, but as Crosby said to me, there's still time left. The trade deadline begins Monday at noon.

"Yeah, I mean, we’re playing good hockey and any time you don’t have to see anyone leave it’s much better that way," he said. "We’ll see what happens. This is always kind of a tough time for everybody. Everybody’s on edge a bit. But we’ll see what happens and go from there."
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