Share This Page

Penguins' Martin returns to practice, faces possible weekend return

| Monday, March 31, 2014, 1:15 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin skates during practice with the team on Friday, April 26, 2013, at Southpointe.

Saying he “felt good — better than I thought,” Paul Martin returned to a full practice with the Penguins for the first time in more than seven weeks.

An X-ray taken Sunday on the defenseman's broken right hand revealed enough progress in healing that Martin was cleared to practice for the first time since the Olympic break.

“It was just good in general to be out with the guys,” said Martin, who's missed the past 17 games. “It's been a long couple weeks, so it's nice to see light at end of the tunnel and get back to practice and hopefully play soon.”

Martin is targeting a return to game action during the Penguins' road trip this weekend. Coach Dan Bylsma said “there's no definite date” for Martin's return “as of yet.”

Martin's right hand was broken playing for Team USA in a quarterfinal game against Slovakia in the Sochi Olympics on Feb. 19. Wednesday would mark six weeks since the injury. Martin, who had surgery on the hand the following week, was expected to be out four to six weeks.

Martin won't play when the Penguins host Carolina on Tuesday, and he termed returning Thursday at Winnipeg as “a longshot.” He is targeting weekend games at Minnesota (Saturday) or Colorado (Sunday).

“I would like to play (Tuesday), but I don't think that's going to happen,” said Martin, a Minneapolis native. “Realistically, I think Winnipeg would be nice, but maybe a longshot with only a couple practices. But I'd definitely like to play back home this weekend Saturday, so…”

Martin said he would “try not to get too excited” after all went smoothly during a practice that included some contact. He wants to wait to see how he feels Tuesday morning.

Former defense partner Brooks Orpik gave Martin's return to practice glowing reviews, saying, “It was typical Pauly. He looked like he hadn't missed a beat”

With Kris Letang (recovery from stroke) also at practice, the Penguins had their top nine defenseman on the ice together for practice for the first time since training camp. Throughout the season among Penguins defensemen, only Matt Niskanen and rookie Olli Maatta have not missed any games because of injury.

In other injury news, forward Joe Vitale took part in the practice. He had not played since March 20. On Sunday, Bylsma said Vitale was “week-to-week” with a “mid-body” injury.

“I'm just happy for them; it's been a tough season for a lot of guys with a lot of injuries,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “It'll be good to have the whole team altogether.

“We've found ways to win throughout the season, though, and that's important. But it'd be good to see everyone back and healthy for the playoffs.”

The Penguins have gone 8-7-2 during this stretch without Martin, although Letang has also been out that whole time, and others — such as Evgeni Malkin — have been missing, too.

The postseason begins two weeks from Wednesday. With medical hurdles cleared, Martin needs to get re-acclimated to hockey shape and ensure the strength has returned to his hand before returning to action.

“We've seen (Martin) around the room these last three weeks doing some skating,” Bylsma said. “But now that he's out here practicing and working on his game and with the thought we may see him here in the near future (in a game) is definitely a lift for our team and our players.”

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.