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Penguins' Patric Hornqvist is ready for return tonight in Carolina

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, 2:03 p.m.
The Penguins' Patric Hornqvist can't redirect the puck past  Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in the first period Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Patric Hornqvist can't redirect the puck past Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in the first period Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.

RALEIGH, N.C. – Patric Hornqvist took morning skate with his teammates without restriction and is on track to be in the lineup when the Penguins face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.

Hornqvist has been out since Feb. 2 with a lower-body injury. Coach Mike Sullivan said Hornqvist's participation will be a game-time decision.

“I feel ready to go,” Hornqvist said. “I feel strong.”

Friday's morning skate was optional, so no line combinations were in use, but during Thursday's practice, Hornqvist skated on the second line with Carl Hagelin and Evgeni Malkin.

In general, the Penguins have fared well since Hornqvist has been out, going 6-1-1. They'll carry a five-game winning streak into Friday night's game.

“It's not the best feeling to sit on the sideline, but the guys have been playing really well,” Hornqvist said. “I think we've really turned it around here since the new year. We just have to keep building every time we're on the ice.”

His absence has been felt most on the power play. The Penguins went 2 for 16 with the man-advantage in the seven games Hornqvist missed.

“We understand how important Horny is to every aspect of our team game,” Sullivan said. “The power play, he brings a unique skill set to that group. We have a lot of real good playmakers, guys that can shoot the puck and can score goals. Horny's a guy that does a lot of the thankless jobs that help power plays be successful.

“He's as good a net presence as there is in the league. He takes the goalie's sight lines away. He limits a goaltender's mobility around the crease. He retrieves pucks. Any loose puck battle that goes in the corner or off a lost faceoff, he's always got his nose over the puck.”

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

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