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Penguins notebook: Murray among injured players making strides in recovery

Jonathan Bombulie
ptrMurray100115
Matt Murray headshot 2015
ptrMurray100115
Matt Murray headshot 2015

When goalie Matt Murray broke his hand last month, the Penguins said he would miss three to six weeks.

As he approaches the middle of his recovery window — the injury occurred four weeks ago Monday — Murray is close to making his return. He skated with Sidney Crosby before the team held its morning skate Monday at PPG Paints Arena.

“Matt’s getting real close to joining the team for practice,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Obviously that’s progress from his standpoint, and that’s the next step for him. He’s been skating a lot. He’s been working with our goalie coach, Mike Bales. He’s been skating with some of the guys that have been trying to recover from their injuries. He skated with Sid this morning. They got a pretty good workout.”

Sullivan said winger Bryan Rust, who has been practicing with the team for about a week as he recovers from an undisclosed injury, is close to being cleared for a return to game action.

“I would envision he would be a coach’s decision here really shortly,” Sullivan said.

Crosby, meanwhile, continues to skate as he recuperates from a concussion.

“We’re really encouraged with the progress that he’s made,” Sullivan said. “Our hope is that he can make a big step this week.”

Leaning on Daley

In the season opener Thursday, Trevor Daley led Penguins defensemen in shorthanded ice time. On Saturday against Anaheim, Daley was the lone defenseman on the ice with two forwards during a five-on-three penalty-kill shift.

For a defenseman known primarily for his skating and offensive instincts, those are high-leverage assignments.

They are assignments Daley welcomes.

“Anybody that plays this game wants to play those big minutes. I love it,” he said. “I love the challenge. A lot of people don’t really look at me as a stay-home or a defensive guy, but I love to do it. In the past, I’ve played those minutes. I enjoy it.”

Cullen’s changes

When Crosby is out of the lineup, few players see a greater change in role that center Matt Cullen.

When Crosby plays, Cullen often centers a line with Eric Fehr and Tom Kuhnhackl, big-body wingers who usually try to establish a possession game with their size and strength on the forecheck. They often face one of the opponent’s top scoring lines.

When Crosby is out, Cullen plays more of a scoring-line role. On Monday night, he started the game centering Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary on a line that usually generates its offense through quickness or off the rush.

“We get a lot more opportunity as far as offensive-zone draws, offensive-zone starts, so that changes things,” Cullen said. “Personally, I try not to change a whole lot with the way I play, but the personnel and the opportunity you get is quite a bit different.”

HBK bonding

Through the first two games of the season, the HBK line didn’t produce a goal at even strength.

Phil Kessel, however, had a pair of memorable moments, scoring the shootout winner in the opener and the winning goal Saturday against Anaheim.

As much as they have become a closely bonded unit, center Nick Bonino said he and Carl Hagelin don’t take credit for the things Kessel does when he is playing with other players. They don’t live vicariously through Kessel on the ice.

“We all live (vicariously) through Phil, just as a person,” Bonino joked.

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

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