Injured Penguins Dumoulin, Malkin, Hagelin return to practice, will be game-time decisions
Justin Schultz said it was “unreal” that Brian Dumoulin was practicing with the Penguins less than 20 hours after absorbing a brutal hit to the head.
For Sidney Crosby, it was “great.” Olli Maatta described it as “awesome to see.”
Dumoulin had another adjective: relief.
“It was good to go out there and skate with the guys and go through the normal routine that I would normally,” the defenseman said afterward. “It was fun to be back out there again. It's definitely a relief.”
Dumoulin joined Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin — also coming off injuries — in practice Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, a day sandwiched between Games 2 and 3 of the second-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals.
Malkin and Hagelin, who form two-thirds of the Penguins' regular second line, missed the first two games of the series. Dumoulin, a top-pairing defenseman, was injured by a hit to his head by Tom Wilson during the Capitals' 4-1 victory in Game 2 on Sunday.
Coach Mike Sullivan was reluctant to provide any additional detail on the Game 3 status of each of the regulars.
“They'll all be game-time decisions,” was the extent of Sullivan's comment.
But just having them on the ice for the team portion of practice and participating in drills was a boost for teammates reeling the day after a loss.
“It's a good sign,” said Kris Letang, Dumoulin's regular partner on the top defense pairing. “It's encouraging.”
Perhaps most encouraging of the three was Dumoulin, who confirmed he went through the NHL's concussion protocol Sunday. Despite wearing a gray jersey signifying “no contact,” Dumoulin said he “felt normal” during practice. He took part in the entire 40-minute session and was paired with Letang.
Dumoulin said he “definitely” felt better than he did Sunday evening.
“Throughout the time I met with the doctors and we have gone through the appropriate steps to try to get me back and make sure I am OK when I come back,” Dumoulin said. “Obviously, concussions, you don't want to rush — or with anything in the head — so for me I am just trying to take the appropriate steps.
“I did all the steps that the league thinks is necessary after the game, and I went through the protocol.”
The Penguins' 5-on-5 postseason shot-attempt percentage with Dumoulin on the ice, 51.26, is second to Chad Ruhwedel (51.57) among the team's defensemen. During the regular season, Dumoulin trailed only Letang among the team's defensemen in that statistic (53.70).
That's almost 5 percentage points better than Matt Hunwick did during the regular season. Hunwick, who had the worst rate (48.93 percent) among any of the 10 defensemen who played for the Penguins this season, would be in line to replace Dumoulin if Dumoulin can't play.
Dominik Simon and Carter Rowney replaced Hagelin and Malkin, respectively, over the past week. Malkin has missed the past three games because of an apparent left-knee injury suffered in Game 5 against Philadelphia on April 20. Hagelin was left bloodied and woozy after being hit in the face by the Flyers' Claude Giroux in the Penguins' series-clinching victory April 22.
Malkin practiced fully Saturday but was a surprise omission from the lineup Sunday. The star center took his regular turn centering Phil Kessel and Simon during line rushes Monday. He also was part of the top unit during power-play drills.
Unlike Malkin, Hagelin did not accompany the Penguins to Washington. Monday was his first practice with the team in nine days.
“Felt good,” Hagelin said. “It was nice to be back to skate around with the teammates like that. It's always hard watching the games on TV, but I felt good today.”
Asked if there was “a legitimate possibility” he could return before this series ends, Hagelin said “yes.”
But how far away is he from game action?
“Not sure,” he said. “That's up to the doctors. We will know more tomorrow.”
Unlike Malkin and Dumoulin, Hagelin did not skate with his usual linemates/partner during line rushes at practice. He had on a gray no-contact jersey, left the session earlier than most of his teammates and wore a full face shield.
Hagelin, who wore a face shield for four seasons at Michigan, said he wasn't sure if he would have to wear one when he returns to game action. He also said pain management hasn't been an issue.
“It's been fine,” he said. “You have been through injuries before. It's a mental part. You just have to know that's part of being in this industry.”