3 Things: Murray, Rust return, Hunwick survives scare
Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Pens’ Monday afternoon practice at UPMC Lemieux Complex…
1. Murray returns with heavy heart
Goaltender Matt Murray was back on the ice with his teammates for the first time since the passing of his father, James Murray, last Tuesday.
“It was good to get out there and have some fun,” he said. “It means a lot.
“Hockey took a backseat for a couple days. When you’re out there it’s kind of like sanctuary.”
Murray made sure to express his gratitude to the overwhelming outpouring of support that he’s received over the past few days.
“I just want to say a big thanks first of all,” he said, “to Pittsburgh and to the team doing a lot for me, getting me home with my family. I want to thank my teammates, too.”
It isn’t clear when Murray will be ready to return to game action. But the team isn’t rushing him. Their only concern at this time is for his wellbeing.
“We’ll take each day as it comes with Matt. But we’re certainly excited to have him back with our team,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think we’re just trying to support him in any way that we can. It’s a difficult circumstance. It’s hard to lose a parent and it’s a difficult time, everybody grieves differently and this coaching staff and his teammates, we’re just to be there and be supportive of him in any way that we can help him through this.”
2. Rust goes full contact
Forward Bryan Rust was another surprise return for the Pens at Monday’s practice. Rust, who took part in full contact during the practice session, has missed the past 11 games with an upper-body injury.
“He is (close),” Sullivan said. “We’ll see how he responds. But certainly he’s making significant progress.”
Rust noted that he “felt good” on the ice. He had been skating on his own while the team was away in California. Rust, who hasn’t played since Dec. 27, welcomed the presence of his teammates after his lonely sessions.
“I’ve got a little bit more of a smile on my face,” Rust said. “It’s always great to be back with the team, especially when the team is on the road trips. There’s only one or two guys (at the facility) and it’s dark and quiet here in the mornings.”
The only player absent from Pittsburgh’s practice was Carter Rowney (upper-body). Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who has missed the last 11 games contests with an upper-body injury, continues to work with the team.
Defenseman Matt Hunwick had an ugly collision into the end boards during practice. He left with the team’s medical staff, but told reporters afterward that he was okay.
“I feel fine,” he said.
The Pens used the following workflow…