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Penguins notebook: Team calls up Daniel Sprong, bump Dominik Simon

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, 10:30 a.m.
The Penguins' Daniel Sprong plays against the Sabres Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 at Pegula Ice Arena in State College.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Daniel Sprong plays against the Sabres Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 at Pegula Ice Arena in State College.

After spending the first three months of the season in the AHL, top prospect Daniel Sprong finally is getting his shot with the Penguins.

And his shot is exactly what the Penguins hope Sprong can use to lift the team out of its offensive doldrums.

Sprong is second in the AHL with 18 goals in 29 games this season. He was called up Saturday after recording a hat trick in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's 5-1 victory over Hartford the night before.

The Penguins have tried to be patient with Sprong's development, working with him to round out his overall game, but after a 2-1 loss at Carolina on Friday night, their patience finally ran out.

“Certainly his scoring ability is what we all get excited about, and we're hopeful he can help us in that capacity,” coach Mike Sullivan said.

Sprong, who had two goals in 18 NHL games as an 18-year-old in 2015-16, is in his third season in the Penguins organization. The team knows exactly what to expect from him in the offensive zone.

“He's got a great shot, quick release, handles the puck well, can create a lot one-on-one, that kind of thing,” captain Sidney Crosby said.

The question always has been if Sprong can avoid becoming a liability when he doesn't have the puck on his stick.

Sprong said he's been working hard in that regard over the past two-plus years.

“I'm just excited, you know? I'm excited to be here and play,” Sprong said. “There's been a lot of development going on in my game over the last couple years.”

Sprong's spot

To make room on the roster for Sprong, the Penguins sent down winger Dominik Simon, who had two assists in a six-game NHL call-up.

During Saturday's practice, Sprong moved into Simon's spot on the third line with center Riley Sheahan and left wing Conor Sheary.

“His scoring ability is a strength. That jumps out at everyone,” Sullivan said. “He's worked hard at his overall game. He's going to get a great opportunity to try to help us out at this point in time, and we'll see how it all shakes out as far as what we want to do line-combination-wise.”

Injury report

Matt Murray returned to the ice Saturday after sitting out Friday's game with an upper-body injury suffered Wednesday against Columbus. He practiced with no limitations and could play Sunday night in Detroit.

“Luckily it wasn't too long, and obviously I felt really good today, a full practice,” Murray said. “It worked out well.”

Injured defensemen Justin Schultz and Kris Letang were on the ice as well. Letang, out since Dec. 23 with a lower-body injury, skated on his own. Schultz, out since Dec. 5 with a lower-body injury, skated with teammates in a noncontact capacity.

Evgeni Malkin missed practice with an illness.

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

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