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Justin Schultz nearing finish line on long road back from broken leg | TribLIVE.com
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Justin Schultz nearing finish line on long road back from broken leg

Jonathan Bombulie
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Justin Schultz looks to pass the puck during their game against the Capitals inside of PPG Paints Arena on May 3, 2018.

The last time Justin Schultz played in a hockey game, the sock tanlines he had acquired in a summer spent on the golf course had yet to fade.

Schultz broke his leg Oct. 14 in Montreal. On Thursday, his road to recovery took another step forward as he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins for a regularly scheduled practice for the first time.

While Schultz wore a white jersey, indicating he hasn’t yet been cleared for contact, he was thrilled to be back on the ice with his teammates after three long, lonely months of rehab.

“That was the first real practice,” he said. “It wasn’t much, but it was good to get out there and do reactionary stuff, not just set drills, and test it out that way.”

Schultz knows the challenge that awaits him. He’ll be hopping onto a treadmill that’s already running at full speed.

“I’ve missed a long time. I think it’s the longest I’ve ever gone in my life without skating,” Schultz said. “Then you put in that this is the NHL and I’m coming back into a playoff race and everyone’s ramping it up now, it’s going to be difficult. But that’s why you put in all the work in practice and off the ice getting ready and do the best you can.”

The next step for Schultz is to be cleared for full-contact practice. The team has yet to announce a timetable.

“It’s not going to get better overnight. It’s a pretty serious injury,” Schultz said. “As long as there are no setbacks, then it’s all good.”

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Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.