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Penguins' Justin Schultz returns from illness

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, 1:18 p.m.

After missing a pair of games last weekend due to illness, defenseman Justin Schultz was back on the ice for the Penguins at Tuesday's practice.

Schultz missed Saturday's game with Toronto and Sunday's game at Columbus. He expected to be in the lineup when the Penguins return to the ice Friday at Carolina.

“Just got sick. Not much you can do about it,” Schultz said. “Feeling better now. It's good we got a week here before we play next.”

Matt Hunwick filled in admirably on the right side of a defense pair with Olli Maatta in Schultz's absence. More than adding to the overall talent level of the defense corps, Schultz's return allows coach Mike Sullivan to manage minutes more efficiently on the blue line.

Kris Letang, for instance, crept up to 26 minutes against Toronto. Sullivan has been keeping Letang closer to 22 or 23 minutes in recent games.

“It gives us more options in certain situations, for example, the power play,” Sullivan said. “If we can split the duties there with Tanger and him, it takes some minutes away from Tanger to give us an opportunity to manage his minutes better.

“We ask Tanger to do a lot for our team. He plays in all the situations, offensively and defensively. Schultzy just gives us more options, especially on the offensive side.”

The only players absent from practice were wingers Patric Hornqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl, who are out with lower-body injuries.

Kuhnhackl, out since Feb. 6, is not skating. Hornqvist, out since Feb. 2, has been skating for about a week. He was on the ice with skills coach Ty Hennes before Tuesday's practice.

“(Hornqvist) is making progress,” Sullivan said. “The next step obviously will be to join the team for practice. We're hoping that will be soon.”

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

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