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Penguins notebook: Bad weather changes travel plans

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 8:03 p.m.
The Penguins' Tom Kuhnhackl checks the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds in the second period Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Tom Kuhnhackl checks the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds in the second period Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at Heinz Field.

PHILADELPHIA – The Penguins decided to take a nice, little day trip across the state Wednesday.

The team's original travel schedule had them flying from Calgary to Philadelphia on Tuesday morning to finish a five-game road trip, but a winter storm forced a change in itinerary. Instead, the team flew into Pittsburgh, spent Tuesday night at home and took a charter flight to Philadelphia on Wednesday morning.

The Penguins were scheduled to fly back after the game.

At the NHL level, travel on game day is rare. The last time the Penguins did it was for a Dec. 27 game in New Jersey. They couldn't fly in the day before because of the CBA-mandated three-day Christmas break.

In the AHL, however, game-day travel is commonplace. When Wilkes-Barre/Scranton visits rivals such as Hershey and Binghamton, for instance, the team has morning skate at home, then takes a 90-minute bus ride in the late afternoon to the road arena.

Of the 20 players the Penguins dressed Wednesday night, only Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin did not play at least a few games in the AHL.

In other words, for almost everyone on the team, gameday travel isn't all that unusual.

“We got here in good time,” forward Carter Rowney said. “We didn't leave too early. We didn't leave too late. It's something you've got to deal with and be a professional and come to play.”

Winger Tom Kuhnhackl, for one, said he much prefers a quick gameday flight to cruising Pennsylvania's interstates in a bus.

“Flying is obviously more comfortable. Get a nice meal in. Sleep is probably a little comfier too,” Kuhnhackl said. “The Bingo bus trip is probably a little harder.”

Trying his patience

After sitting out the last three games of the Western Canada trip with a lower-body injury, Matt Cullen returned to his customary spot centering the fourth line Wednesday night.

Cullen said his injury wasn't the type that should linger, and now that he's had some rest, he “should be 100 percent.”

Convincing himself to rest while seven other lineup regulars were also dealing with injuries was the hard part.

“You hate to see the group shorthanded,” Cullen said. “Obviously, the guys who have come up have done a good job and really filled in nicely, but anytime you're out, I think you feel a responsibility to get back as quick as you can.”

Back to practice

Winger Patric Hornqvist returned to practice in a noncontact capacity Wednesday, a week after reporting concussion symptoms in Winnipeg.

Hornqvist, who last played March 5 against Buffalo, said he didn't feel the need to take any special precautions with his recovery because it is his second concussion of the season.

“You know when you feel good and you don't feel good,” he said. “I feel good right now.”

Hornqvist also said the injury won't change his hard-nosed style of play.

“If I'm more careful, I'm out of this league, so no,” he said.

Other injuries

Defenseman Mark Streit, who did not play the last two periods Monday in Calgary after suffering a lower-body injury while blocking a shot, was back in the lineup Wednesday without missing a game.

Carl Hagelin (lower body), Bryan Rust (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand) and Trevor Daley (knee) will be out until sometime around the end of the regular season.

The only injured player without a timetable for return is Kris Letang (upper body). Sullivan expressed optimism about his recovery Wednesday.

“Nothing new other than he is making progress. He is feeling better,” Sullivan said. “The next step will be to get him on the ice and see how that goes. We've been encouraged with the last few days.”

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

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