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Penguins' injured players quickly getting healthy

TAMPA, Fla. — It is rare for a hockey coach to be pleased that his team had too many men on the ice.

The Penguins' Dan Bylsma couldn't have been more thrilled Sunday afternoon when injured defenseman Zbynek Michalek (upper body) took part in a full practice. His participation gave Bylsma 25 players to work out at St. Pete Times Forum.

"It was more like a college team than a pro team," Bylsma said. "We're getting guys back, and that's a good thing."

Right wing Arron Asham (left shoulder) will try to play Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bylsma said Asham, who has yet to play this season, would likely play "up and down the lineup" upon his return.

The Penguins have had to scratch a healthy forward for each game this season. Eric Godard has not played in six games; Craig Adams missed two, and Mike Comrie sat out one. Another forward would need to be removed to insert Asham into the lineup, and rookie left wing Eric Tangradi — lately playing mostly on a checking line — might be a candidate.

Bylsma said clearing a spot for Asham on Wednesday is "a possibility."

The Penguins yesterday practiced with three extra forwards, including center Jordan Staal, who remains out indefinitely while rehabbing his right foot. Those players were on the injured reserve list as of yesterday. The return of Michalek, out since Oct. 11 with an apparent left-shoulder injury, bumped the defense total to eight players.

Conceivably, the Penguins could reassign defenseman Andrew Hutchinson to the American Hockey League to clear a roster spot for Asham. Hutchinson did not dress Saturday in an overtime loss at St. Louis — a game that marked the return of defenseman Brooks Orpik from a six-contest absence with a groin injury.

Michalek said he returned to practice sooner than expected. His prognosis had been missing two to four weeks.

"The injury is progressing fairly fast," he said, declining to identify its specific nature. "I'm sure we'll still be feeling it out the next few weeks ... but it's going to be two weeks (today), so I'm happy with how it's progressing."

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