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Penguins notebook: Some rare good news on injuries to defensemen

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, March 4, 2017, 6:24 p.m.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole (28) stretches prior to an NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Friday March 03, 2017. Pittsburgh won 5-2.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole (28) stretches prior to an NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Friday March 03, 2017. Pittsburgh won 5-2.

Here's a new one: A couple of Penguins defensemen actually got good news on the injury front Saturday.

Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin practiced without incident after leaving the ice briefly in the third period Friday night against Tampa Bay.

Cole got tangled up with winger Vladislav Namestnikov and buckled awkwardly under his own weight. On Saturday, he chalked it up to the normal bumps and bruises of a season.

Dumoulin's head was driven into the glass by Namestnikov, pushing his visor into his face. Dumoulin said he went through the NHL's concussion protocol before returning to the game.

“I had a little scrape there, and I originally thought it was the visor that got me,” Dumoulin said. “In that situation, I was waiting for the puck to come to me, so I was kind of in a vulnerable position. Obviously, you don't want to try to take those hits. That's something that happens.”

Easing in

Coach Mike Sullivan eased Conor Sheary back into the lineup Friday night, limiting him to about 13 minutes of ice time, including just three shifts in the third period.

Sheary, who missed 13 games with an upper-body injury, said the first few shifts were the most difficult.

“I think I kind of had to find my instincts again and find some chemistry with my linemates,” said Sheary, who skated mostly with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. “When you're out of the game for that long, you kind of lose that just a little bit. I think my first few shifts, it was just a lot of energy, try to move my feet and get a bump in and go from there.”

Job security

Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel got some good news and some bad news at the trade deadline.

The bad news was the Penguins picked up two NHL defensemen, pushing him down the depth chart.

The good news was he wasn't one of the players assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a paper transaction to maintain AHL eligibility for the rest of the season.

In other words, his playing time isn't assured, but his NHL job seems to be safe. That's a small victory that he's willing to celebrate.

“There's going to be a lot of D once everybody gets healthy. We all realize that,” Ruhwedel said. “I'm just trying to make a case for myself, playing every night hard and doing the things I can control. I feel like I say that a lot, but at this point in the game, that's what I have to do. I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot.”

Rare practice

With a packed schedule that includes 16 games this month, Saturday's 40-minute practice was one of just six on the Penguins' March schedule.

“It was nice,” Sullivan said. “It's not like we had an opportunity to do a lot out there, but I think we got something accomplished for sure. We got an opportunity to work on the power plays a little bit and get some of the new guys into the fold. From that regard, I think it was a productive day for us.”

Sabres star

The Penguins will play the Buffalo Sabres for the second time this season Sunday, but they will be facing star-in-the-making Jack Eichel for the first time. Eichel was out with an ankle injury when the Penguins lost 2-1 in a shootout in November in Buffalo.

Eichel, the second pick in the 2015 draft, has 15 goals and 40 points in 43 games.

“He's a guy that's a difference- maker,” Sullivan said. “We're going to have to pay attention and know when he's on the ice.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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