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Staal and Despres Return to Practice

Monday, 02.06.2012 / 2:06 PM / Features
By Sam Kasan
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Staal and Despres Return to Practice
MONTREAL, Quebec – Two steps forward, one step back.

The Penguins inched a little closer in the health department as center Jordan Staal and defenseman Simon Despres, both working through knee injuries, returned to team practice Monday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

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But the team also learned that it will be without forward Tyler Kennedy, who left Sunday’s game in New Jersey late in the third period after falling awkwardly into the boards, for the foreseeable future as he returned to Pittsburgh to be re-evaluated for a lower-body injury.

Jordan Staal and Simon Despres made the next step in their rehab returning to practice with the team,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Tyler Kennedy is going back to Pittsburgh (Monday) to be re-evaluated with a lower-body injury. Hopefully, in the next 24-48 hours we’ll know the severity of his injury.”

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Staal and Despres are on similar timeframes for rehabbing their knee injuries and returning to game action. Coach Bylsma placed each in a 5-10 day period.

Staal suffered a knee injury Jan. 6 against NY Rangers after colliding with Mike Rupp. He was projected to have a 4-6 week recovery and has rehabbed along that timeline.

“To have a guy like Jordan out for an extended period, 4-6 weeks, that’s a heck of a long time in a hockey season,” Bylsma said. “Next Friday will be five weeks so we know he’s getting better. We’ve seen him progress. To get him back on the ice, he’s a pretty darn good player to add to your lineup. Hopefully, we get him back here in the next 10 days.”

Staal was happy to work with his teammates as opposed to skating and working on his own like he had been doing the last week or so.

“Today I showed up for work,” he joked. “It’s a good feeling to be back with the team. The knee feels good. It’s the next step and we’ll see how it goes from here.

“This is my first practice with the team. It’s always great to be out there with them. I’m happy to be back.”

Staal will not only be working on strengthening his knee, but also regaining his conditioning to as close to game shape as possible.

“That’s the issue. It’s my first practice back with the team and the guys were skating pretty fast,” Staal said. “It makes you want to catch up pretty fast. It takes a little while to get that under your belt.

“I’m not far I think. It’s feeling really good. It’s mostly mental. The knee feels strong, but we’ll find a game hopefully soon enough.”

Despres is also 5-10 days from returning to health, according to Bylsma. With seven healthy defensemen the team hasn’t yet decided if they’ll return Despres to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton upon his return.

“At this point in time we have seven healthy D so when he gets healthy we’ll make that decision,” Bylsma said.

Note: A popular trade rumor circulating in Montreal and around the league is the possibility of former Penguins blueliner and 2009 Stanley Cup champion Hal Gill returning to Pittsburgh. While coach Bylsma said that is only a “hypothetical” scenario, he did say that he has an affinity for players that he’s won with in the past.

“Hal Gill was a big part of our team both in the dressing room and on the ice,” Bylsma said. “All those players that you’ve been with you’ve got an affinity for. Hal was a big part of that. Rob Scuderi, Sergei Gonchar. Those are guys you’ve won with. … Hal’s a good player, but that’s a hypothetical.”
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