Penguins notebook: Injured defensemen Justin Schultz, Matt Hunwick return to practice
There's no truth to the rumor Justin Schultz met his Penguins teammates at the terminal, face pressed up against the glass in anticipation, when their plane landed on the return flight from a five-game western road trip Sunday.
But don't think he didn't consider it.
Schultz was back at practice Monday afternoon, skating with the team in a full-contact capacity. He has been sidelined since Oct. 24 with a concussion.
While the team was away and Schultz was skating on his own, he was bored.
Really, really bored.
"It was awesome coming to the rink this morning," Schultz said. "I was here extra early. I was excited."
We're happy to see you too, Schultz! pic.twitter.com/3lOJjiEXfk— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 6, 2017
Missing the western road trip was especially disappointing for Schultz because he's from Kelowna, British Columbia. The original plan was for his girlfriend and his dog to head to Western Canada in advance, with Schultz meeting them before the Penguins played the Canucks on Saturday night.
They stuck to the original travel plan, which left Schultz more or less home alone.
"I did a lot of walking around," Schultz said. "It was the most bored I've ever been for a week. It was tough, but the boys are back and it's good."
Defenseman Matt Hunwick, who also is recovering from a concussion, practiced with the team Monday as well. Coach Mike Sullivan hasn't written their names on the lineup card for Tuesday night's home game with Arizona, but he hasn't ruled it out either.
"We'd obviously like to get them in as soon as they're cleared and healthy and ready to play," Sullivan said. "Today was a big step in that direction."
Tuesday's game will mark the return of Rick Tocchet, who left his post as a Penguins assistant to take over head coaching duties with the Coyotes in July.
"It's cool for him," winger Phil Kessel said. "He's a great guy, a great coach. I was real happy he got a (head coaching) job. Obviously their season hasn't started off the way they wanted to, but they're young. They're going to improve."
Back to normal
Ian Cole practiced with a regular helmet for the first time since taking a Roman Josi shot to the mouth Oct. 7. He played the last 10 games with full facial protection.
"Was it the worst thing in the world? No, you can make it work," Cole said. "But there's stuff blocking your view down here, so that's annoying. Going back to the normal visor, it's awesome. It's great. You go back to it and you're like, 'Wow.' "
As a member of the Colorado Avalanche for the better part of four seasons from 2010-14, Hunwick got a close-up look at the talents of Matt Duchene, who was traded to the Ottawa Senators in a three-team deal Sunday.
Hunwick said he's not sure the trade will tip the balance of power in the Eastern Conference because the Senators had to give up a quality player, sending Kyle Turris to Nashville, but he's confident Duchene will flourish in Canada's capital.
"I'm sure he's looking forward to the opportunity," Hunwick said. "A change of scenery can sometimes be really good for guys, especially someone that's kind of been in the rumor mill for a while. To have it happen and now it's behind him, he can move on and play hockey and focus on the things that really matter."
Hockey Fights Cancer
The Penguins will take part in Hockey Fights Cancer activities at Tuesday night's game. Players will wear purple jerseys for warm-ups, fans will receive a purple knit cap courtesy of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and public service announcements from Kessel and Olli Maatta will air on the video board. Maatta and Kessel are cancer survivors.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.