After a rough 1-3 start to the season, things are looking up for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they’ve gone on a three game winning streak, particularly in the last two games in which they outscored the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators 10-3. The Penguins managed to do that thanks to a suddenly productive powerplay, as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin seem like they’re getting their legs under them while Mark Letestu is flourishing in a relief role.
While the Penguins and Brent Johnson are on a torrid pace, there’s no doubt that they must miss their four most noteworthy injured players: Jordan Staal, Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik and Arron Asham. While it’s unclear when exactly the four will return to the ice, TSN passes along the good news that each skater at least took the ice on Tuesday, with Staal, Michalek and Asham actually appearing in practice with the team.
Staal was not alone in his return as both forward Arron Asham and defenceman Brooks Orpik also practiced with the team. Asham has yet to make his Penguins’ debut and continues to nurse a shoulder injury while Orpik has been sidelined with a groin injury.
Defenceman Zbynek Michalek took the ice before Penguins practice to work out with the team’s strength and conditioning coach. He is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury.
Staal ($4 million), Michalek ($4M), Orpik ($3.75M) and Asham ($700K) combine for a $12.4 million annual cap hit for the Penguins and bring an interesting mixture of two-way play, rugged hitting and grit to the table. In some ways, the team might be a bit more explosive in some areas in their absence, as players such as Alex Goligoski (more than 25 minutes played against Ottawa last night) get increased work with Michalek and Orpik out. Then again, Andrew Hutchinson and Deryk Engelland aren’t necessarily ideal NHL-level blue line options, so the Penguins must be eager to see those two defensemen approaching a return.
Neither the Penguins nor that TSN article provided exact details about their precise return date, so we’ll keep you updated as more information emerges.