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Penguins notebook: Letang returns for morning skate, takes 'first step'

| Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, 5:21 p.m.
Penguins defenseman Kirs Letang scoots around the net past the Red Wings' Anthony Nantha in the second period Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kirs Letang scoots around the net past the Red Wings' Anthony Nantha in the second period Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, at PPG Paints Arena.

Leave it to Kris Letang, who logged 664 minutes of ice time in 24 playoff games last spring, to groan about getting back into shape after a short, injury-caused stint away from the rink.

Letang joined the Penguins for Tuesday's morning skate after missing the past two practices and two day-of-game workouts with an upper-body injury, but he wore a yellow no-contact jersey. When he will begin to absorb contact again, he's not sure. He's concentrating more on restoring his stamina in the meantime.

“This is the first time I've skated (since Oct. 18), so that's why I feel (lousy),” Letang said. “(After) two days, like I literally feel like I've not skated for like a month. I don't know, my body like completely shuts down when I don't skate. We'll build it back up now.

“It's good to be back on the ice. At least it's going the right way. First step.”

The particular nature of Letang's injury, which occurred in Montreal after the defenseman took a hit from Brendan Gallagher, remains unknown. Letang described it Tuesday as a “nagging” ailment and added Gallagher's hit “didn't help.”

Coach Mike Sullivan came away with a considerably different impression about Letang's performance at the morning skate than the one offered by the star defenseman.

“I thought he looked great, but that's just me watching him while standing on the side,” Sullivan said. “Obviously he's a terrific player, and he brings so much to the table. It's important that he has a comfort level with where he's at before we put him back into the lineup.

“A lot of it is going to be on Tanger's feedback on how he feels. We're very encouraged that he joined us for practice today. … Barring any setbacks, the next step would be to continue in that practice environment.”

Thumbs up

A protective wrap remains on Matt Murray's right thumb. But Murray considers it more cosmetic by the day.

“It's a slow process,” said Murray, who served as the Penguins backup Tuesday against Florida. “The doctors have their timelines, and they stick to them pretty harshly. But I've been through all the steps now. It's not going to fully heal for quite some time, but that's normal. It's definitely healed enough so that I can definitely test it and really push myself pretty hard and see how it reacts. We're at that point where we really haven't had any setbacks, and I've been pushing it pretty hard.

“(The wrap) keeps my thumb pretty stable, so I'm not going to jam it or anything. If I do have to open up and I get hit there, this will protect it pretty well. I'm not too worried about it.”

Eye exam

While Letang and Murray received good news regarding their injuries in recent days, Conor Sheary learned his absence from the lineup will continue for another week as he recovers from an eye injury.

Sheary, who took a stick to the face Oct. 18 in Montreal, met with doctors Monday and did not receive clearance to return to play, Sullivan said. A re-evaluation was scheduled for early next week.

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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