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Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Penguins’ Friday afternoon skate in San Jose.

1. Schultz okay after crosscheck

Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz skated after he left in the third period of Thursday’s game following a crosscheck from Dustin Brown.

“I feel fine,” Schultz said. “Everything went well out there, so I’m good to go. I was pretty nervous at first, luckily all the tests went well and a good day on the ice today. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

On the play, Schultz had fallen to his knees facing the boards and was completely defenseless when Brown skated up and leveled him from behind, sending his face into the dasher.

The Kings forward received a five-minute major and a game misconduct, as well as a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety this afternoon. However, Brown did not receive a suspension, merely receiving a fine of $10,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA.

“The league deals with that, I’m not going to comment and start anything,” Schultz said. “It is what it is. I’m not hurt, so that’s alright. I’ll be back next game.”

Evgeni Malkin also received disciplinary action for a play in the game. He was fined $5,000 for spearing Brown in the first period.

2. Pens monitoring workload

The team stayed the night in Los Angeles following their 3-1 win over the Kings and had an 11 a.m. flight to San Jose this morning. When they landed, one bus went to the team hotel while the other took Schultz, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Daniel Sprong, Ian Cole, Chad Ruhwedel, Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith to the Sharks’ practice facility for a skate.

The Penguins have been taking advantage of every opportunity they have to get rest, especially since entering the second half of the season. For this California swing, they’ve only had one full practice – on Tuesday in Anaheim – and will finish the trip without having held a morning skate for any of the three games.

“We’re obviously trying to monitor our workload and for example, this particular week, we’re in the middle of three games in four nights,” head coach Mike Sullivan explained. “We just had back-to-back games, two pretty tough games against two really good teams. To give them an opportunity to recover today, we felt as though it was really important so that we can be at our best tomorrow.”

3. WBS streaking

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins extended their season-best winning streak to 8 games with a 4-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday.

Arguably the most impressive part of that streak is that a number of WBS’ top forwards and both goaltenders they started the season with are currently with Pittsburgh: DeSmith, Jarry, Dea, Sprong and Dominik Simon.

Talking with Dea, who made his season debut on Thursday centering Tom Kuhnhackl and Ryan Reaves, he credited the entire organization from top to bottom for making it easy on guys to slot in wherever they’re needed.

“The whole organization does a great job, starting in Wheeling,” Dea said. “When guys come up they’re ready to play so it makes everything easier. In Wilkes we had good guys down there who work hard. That’s the way we play here in the Pittsburgh organization. We work hard and skate. So that’s why, I think. All three groups of players on the teams make a big group and everybody works hard and helps each other. Every time guys get called up and stuff, they’re ready to go and they know what to do.”

It also helps that WBS head coach Clark Donatelli, who is one of the absolute best people in the game, and first-year assistant coach Tim Army do a tremendous job of finding that balance between development and winning.

“They’re the best, obviously,” Dea said with a smile. “You look at Clarkie, you can’t ask for a better guy to make you feel comfortable. Always there to talk to you and make sure you’re comfortable. Obviously they’re doing a really good job down there.”

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The Penguins don’t have a problem this season — they have problems, plural, and every time they think they have one figured out, another one pops up.

They’re obviously getting inconsistent scoring throughout the lineup. Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary and Carl Hagelin are all having down offensive seasons vs. 2016-17. As mentioned here, their even-strength scoring is down overall, and the Penguins have too often looked like a team with a lot of miles on its tires from the past two Stanley Cup championship runs.

But if there’s one number that really sticks out about the Penguins this season, it’s their record in one-goal games. First, it’s the fact that they’ve played a lot of them in a season that has seen its share of large margins of victories. More than half of Pittsburgh’s games — 17 out of 32 this season — have been decided by one goal. Last season, only 22 of its 82 games were one-goal games.

Last season, the Penguins won 19 of their one-goal games and only lost three. This season? They’ve won 10 and lost seven — the most losses in games decided by one goal in the NHL. That doesn’t include three overtime losses, which are obviously also by a one-goal margin.

Their offensive woes are part of these struggles in close games, but there’s another significant change from last season on the defensive side: The Penguins have gone from a .914 team save percentage to an .896 this season. It’s no secret that Pittsburgh has gotten substandard goaltending from its backup netminders in 2017 — it was swell, Antti Niemi — but starter Matt Murray has been no great shakes either, with a very ordinary .910 EV save percentage, down from .932 last season.

The Penguins hope that Murray will bounce back now that he’s off injured reserve, and the Penguins can start picking up wins in the closely decided games.

Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Score more goals at even strength! That’s a panacea for any ailing team, but the Penguins’ 5-on-5 production doesn’t resemble what we’re used to from the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs. As of Tuesday, the Penguins had 45 goals at even strength. Where does that rank in the league? A measly 29th. Only the San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres are worse. Pittsburgh has also allowed 103 goals at even strength, which is tied for the second-worst mark in the league. The Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers join Pittsburgh in the cellar. So what gives?

Slow starts also plagued the Pens early in the season and haven’t improved much since. Bottom-six depth has been a concern for this team since it parted ways with veterans Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen. Preseason darling Greg McKegg just couldn’t keep up and landed on the waiver wire last week.

When I watch Pittsburgh, I see a team that looks tired. Maybe the past few seasons are finally taking a toll. How can this be fixed, Penguins fans might ask? An injection of energy — perhaps via a trade — can’t hurt. Offer this roster some fresh legs. Remain hopeful that 23-year-old Dominik Simon can sustain some of the excitement he brought while playing top-line minutes with Sidney Crosby this week. And score early and often on 5-on-5. For as much as the Penguins haven’t looked like themselves early on, and as wild as it is to see them fifth in the division, they’re still in the hunt.

Chris Peters, NHL Insider: I think the Penguins could potentially benefit from a trade, particularly to bring in some scoring depth to make their bottom six more of a threat. Pittsburgh has somewhat limited assets to make such a trade, however. Ian Cole seems like the obvious candidate based on the reports and rumors about him, but I feel like that might plug one hole by creating another in the defensive-depth department. I do potentially like the idea of fresh blood coming in — players who are hungry for an opportunity. Pittsburgh had been able to do that internally with Bryan Rust, Sheary and Murray two years ago, and Guentzel last year. It would be awfully hard for Simon to move the needle as much as those guys did, hence the need for [Penguins GM Jim] Rutherford to look externally.

Then again, I think the Pens still have enough talent on the roster to get out of the funk. It just may take a little more creativity. Staying the course may be an uninteresting option, but Pittsburgh has the worst 5-on-5 shooting percentage in the league right now. It’s hard to expect that to continue. It may not be as easy as snapping one’s fingers so that the goals magically start dropping, but it’s easier to expect things to change when you have this particular roster. Also, if they’re really trying to get that ol’ shooting percentage up, just keep passing the puck to Phil Kessel. The Thrill is on fire right now, with seven goals in his past nine games, and is on a career-best goal-scoring pace.

Finally, now that Murray is back, the Pens have to figure out the right workload for him. With Tristan Jarry showing that he might be ready to take on a few more starts, they can take some of the burden off of their young No. 1 goalie. The amount of hockey this team has played, coming off of back-to-back Cup seasons, undoubtedly puts a strain on the whole team, but especially on Murray, who was essentially thrust into the role while he was still figuring out how to be a goalie in the NHL (and that’s not just about stopping pucks and playing games). He has a pair of Stanley Cups to show he passed the test, but this is still his first full year as The Guy. Keeping him healthy and as fresh as possible should be a priority going forward, especially if the team keeps struggling to score.

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Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Penguins’ Thanksgiving Day practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex…

1. Injury updates

Evgeni Malkin, who missed Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Vancouver with an upper-body injury, was the only player missing from the skate. Head coach Mike Sullivan said his status remains the same.

“He’s not going to travel with us to Boston,” Sullivan said. “We’ll evaluate him when we come back. One of the reasons he’s not going to travel with us is because it’s an afternoon game and he’s got an opportunity to skate here.”

While Malkin is ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Bruins, Sullivan said he is a possibility to play Saturday against the Lightning.

Carter Rowney, who has missed the last 14 games with an upper-body injury, took warmups last night but did not play. The center, who returned to team practice on Nov. 18 and has been taken off injured reserve, said that he continues to feel better and better, though he admitted it’s been tough to stay patient.

“It feels like I’ve been out for months on months right now,” he said. “I’m at the end here hopefully, and as long as there’s no setbacks or anything like that, I’ll hopefully be back soon.”

Rowney did line rushes at practice. Here’s the team’s workflow…

Sheary-Crosby-Hornqvist

Guentzel-Sheahan-Kessel

Hagelin-Rowney-Rust

Kuhnhackl-McKegg-Reaves

Archibald rotated in with the defense.

2. Turkey time

After practice the Pens got on a flight to Boston, where the players will be treated to a Thanksgiving meal at the team hotel.

New England natives like Conor Sheary, who’s from Massachusetts, and Brian Dumoulin, who’s from Maine, will be dining with their teammates despite being close to home. “I’m going to miss my grandmother’s cooking this time around,” Sheary said with a smile. “I think by the time we get in it will be a little bit late and with the day game tomorrow, I want to make sure I get my rest.”

The Michigan natives on the team, like Bryan Rust, Ian Cole and Matt Hunwick, were all watching the Detroit Lions play in their annual Thanksgiving Day game in the locker room before they left – which is a tradition for those guys.

“We’d watch the Lions every year, they would basically lose every year, so the Lions losing was also a great Thanksgiving day tradition,” joked Cole.

All of the American-born players grew up with different traditions, but one constant was the food. Here’s a few of them talking about their favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner…

Cole: “I don’t know if I have a favorite part. I’m a big sweet potato casserole guy. Love sweet potatoes, love the sweet potato casserole. Love the brussel sprouts, love the stuffing. The turkey is great too, if you get the nice dark meat.”

Hunwick: “My father in-law makes some really good stuffing. Sausage, there’s so much stuff in there that’s so good, mushrooms. It’s really good I love it, they put some vegetables in there. I’ll be missing it this year.”

Ruhwedel: “Turkey and gravy. You gotta have the good gravy on it. Stuffing too, kind of on the biggest plate possible.”

Rust: “Recently stuffing. I was never a stuffing fan until recently, until the last couple years I was never a fan. My taste buds evolved.”

3. Sullivan’s message

It’s no secret that the Pens are dealing with some adversity right now. The team is coming off its second straight loss, where they didn’t score an even-strength goal in either game, and they’ve struggled in a number of areas – particularly coming out with a consistent effort night in and night out.

The players aren’t happy right now, and neither are the coaches, but the message from the staff today was that they need to have a certain level of resilience and resolve.

“It’s never easy when you don’t win,” Sullivan said. “Our expectation when we go into every game is that we’re going to win. That’s the standard that’s been set here, so when you don’t have success, that’s never an easy experience. I’ve never been one to take losing very easily, and I don’t think our players are either. We’ve got a very competitive group and I think they have an expectation to win as well. I think the important thing is that we react and respond the right way.

“Tomorrow’s a new day, today is a new day. So we went out on the ice today, we had a spirited practice. I thought we got better on the ice today, that was important. And then we’ve got to be ready to play tomorrow.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 2-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena.

* The difference in this game was special teams. Chicago scored two power-play goals in the game, while Pittsburgh’s power play was held off of the scoresheet. The Pens penalty kill unit has been struggling lately, and they have yet to find a cure.

* Matt Hunwick returned to the lineup after missing the past 15 games with a concussion. He made an immediate impact. Hunwick scored a shorthanded goal in the third period that tied the game at 1-1.

Hunwick also saved a goal when Matt Murray lost the puck and Lance Bouma had an empty net in front of him. Hunwick stretched out his leg to make a kick save that any goaltender could appreciate.

Hunwick didn’t stop there. He finished the night with six blocked shots, the highest total in the game.

* Hunwick wasn’t the only Pens player to come up with a ridiculous save. During a penalty kill, an errant Blackhawks shot went off the end boards and out to Patrick Sharp on the opposite side. Murray couldn’t recover fast enough, but Riley Sheahan slid in the crease to kick away Sharp’s shot.

* Lost in the mix of all the Pens players playing goalie, was the play of the team’s actual goalie. Murray was tested early when Jonathan Toews tried to sneak a shot through his five-hole from along the goal line. Murray sticked the puck away. Minutes later Nick Schmaltz had a breakaway and also tried to tuck the puck through Murray’s five-hole. Again, Murray brought down the paddle to close the door. Murray also stopped Sharp on a breakaway in the third period.

It was a solid night from Murray, who had surrendered six goals to the Blackhawks in Chicago earlier this season. The performance will definitely help with his psyche and confidence.

* Ian Cole continues to assert himself in the physical spectrum. Cole laid another explosive hit – for the third game in a row – when he blew up Ryan Hartman just inside the blue line. In previous games Cole had delivered crushing hits to Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart and Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan.

* The Pens appeared to have tied the game at 2-2 in the third period, but the Blackhawks challenged goaltender interference on Olli Maatta. The goal was overturned, and rightly so. It was clearly interference.

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 Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 5-4 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres at PPG Paints Arena.

* The script on this one played out just like Saturday in Nashville, except the ending was much better for Pittsburgh. The Penguins had a rough start, surrendering turnovers and odd-man rushes, and fell behind, 3-1 and 4-3. Pittsburgh would charge back to even the score late, just like in Nashville. But this time, the Penguins completed the comeback by netting the winning tally.

* The Pens have shown the ability to comeback in any game and against any opponent. It’s a nice weapon in your arsenal. But no doubt they would much prefer to have better starts, play with the lead and used their puck possession game to tilt games in their favor.

* How boss was that headman pass by Olli Maatta on the Pens’ second goal? Maatta had the puck behind his own net and banked a pass up to Patric Hornqvist at the opposing blue line. That sent Hornqvist up ice with speed to create a 2-on-1 and a Pittsburgh goal on Conor Sheary’s finish.

* Sidney Crosby found the back of the net for the first time in 12 games. A Crosby turnover in the opening seconds of the second period led to a Sabres goal. After that, Crosby responded by playing with energy and vigor. He tied the game at 3-3 with his power-play tally.

* I love seeing the “dump and retrieve” plays between Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin – harkening back to the HBK days. When Kessel gets the puck anywhere on the ice, even in his own zone, and Hagelin has a clear lane up ice, Kessel will flip the puck into a corner in the offensive zone. Hagelin then has to win a footrace to retrieve the puck, negating the icing and giving the Pens a de facto entry. It was an effective tool with HBK, and Kessel and Hagelin are going back to the well.

* Ian Cole leveled Sam Reinhart in the neutral zone with a clean open-ice hit. Right after the hit both Jack Eichel and Evander Kane dropped the gloves and went after Cole. It was a clean hit, but in this day of age in the NHL any big hit seems to demand a response by the inflicted team. Why must every hit warrant a response? Next time, Reinhart will probably keep his head up.

* Riley Sheahan had to wait 80 games before scoring his first goal of the year during last season. He’s been snake-bitten again so far this season, goal-less 19. But he came darn close to breaking through when he carried a puck across the crease and tried to tuck the puck in. If not for the outstretched pad of Robin Lehner, Sheahan would be on the board.

Sheahan did pick up an assist when his hustle created a turnover late in the second period, and let to a Hornqvist tally.

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While the Penguins picked up just three points on their season-long five-game road swing through western Canada, one of the positives taken from the trip was the impact Chad Ruhwedel has had on keeping a battered blue line afloat.

Since Oct. 24, a span of seven games, Ruhwedel has averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game – fourth highest among Penguins defenseman. After starting the year as the team’s seventh defenseman, Ruhwedel got an opportunity to enter the lineup due to injuries and has since been quietly consistent.

“It means a lot, their trust in me,” Ruhwedel said. “The more you play, the better you’ll get every week, and you can just get into the game a little easier. Having some more minutes is nice, and I just have to stay with it.”

Thrusted into the lineup after Ian Cole’s injury from a blocked shot, the San Diego, Calif. native has seen an increased workload with Matt Hunwick and Justin Schultz both sidelined with concussions. He’s handled it well, and a lot of that coincides with his fit within the Penguins system.

“He’s played really well for us,” head coach Mike Sullivan reflected. “He’s a guy that you know exactly what you’re going to get, night in and night out from him. He’s really increased his intensity level since he’s been playing with us. He’s played a real solid two-way game.”

While Hunwick and Schultz are both on the verge of returning, as they are cleared for contact and practiced with regular jerseys on Monday, Ruhwedel’s play has provided a case to leave him in the lineup.

While the Penguins have had a lethal power play this season, as their 28.8-percent conversion rate is tied for second in the league, they have struggled to score at even strength throughout the first five weeks of the season. Ruhwedel, playing primarily all his minutes 5-on-5, has been arguably the Penguins’ strongest defenseman at even strength.

The UMass-Lowell product has provided a smooth game, highlighted by his skating ability and on-ice awareness.

“The thing we really like about Chad is his mobility,” Sullivan said. “He can get back to pucks quickly, he helps us get out of our end zone. He’s defending hard, he has a good stick, and he’s coachable. He’s done really a good job for us, he quietly goes about his business and plays an important role for this team.”

One of his biggest assets is his quick decision-making with the puck. This was showcased brilliantly on Oct. 12 against Tampa Bay, when Ruhwedel corralled a rebound in the defensive zone, and rather than just clearing the puck, took a few strides before launching a full-ice pass to Conor Sheary. He snuck behind the Lightning defense and buried the goal on a quick counter-attack play.

“He’s a solid player, he’s very dependable,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “I know what he’s going to do with the puck, and that’s a good thing to have in a partner, the predictability. He’s a good skater, has a good shot, and he can work well with anyone.”

The 5’11″, 192-pound blueliner’s steady defensive game is what led to the Penguins pursuing him last off season after three years in the Buffalo Sabres organization, mostly spent with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans.

Ruhwedel initially started the 2016-17 season with Wilkes-Barre, but a strong start and banged-up blueline led to him playing in 34 NHL contests with Pittsburgh, scoring two goals, picking up eight assists, and finishing a plus-9.

It earned him a Stanley Cup ring and a two-year, one-way NHL contract this most recent offseason, and the next big step is becoming a constant presence in the lineup, even when everyone is healthy.

“I just need to play my game, keep doing what I’m doing,” Ruhwedel said. “Do more with the opportunities that I’m getting, and just try to make the most of it.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 2-1 win over Edmonton on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena…

 The biggest storyline heading into this game was Sidney Crosby versus Connor McDavid. The biggest storyline coming out of it was Matt Murray versus Cam Talbot. The goaltenders were spectacular and put on quite the show. With so much talent on both teams, this wasn’t an easy game for the netminders, but they did a terrific job. I thought they were both particularly impressive during power plays.

* Murray made a stop during a second-period man-advantage that’s a candidate for Save of the Year. It was absolutely magnificent. On a broken play the puck skipped right to Mark Letestu, who was wide open on the back door. It looked like Murray wouldn’t be able to recover in time, but he dove across and was able to knock the puck away with the shaft of his stick. Murray is a technically sound goaltender who’s usually in a position where he doesn’t have to make those desperation saves, but power plays are a different story. That was just incredible work by him to get across and keep the puck out of his net.

* Murray was the Pens’ best penalty killer all night, but he certainly got some help from his teammates. Right after that crazy save, chaos erupted in the crease. There were bodies everywhere, and Carl Hagelin ended up saving the day when he reached out and deflected the puck into the corner when the Oilers had another open net. Murray was down and out at that point, but Brian Dumoulin was crouched into a butterfly ready to cover for him if needed. Overall, the Pens did a better job of staying disciplined after getting into penalty trouble their last couple of games.

* The Pens lost Justin Schultz with about five minutes left in the first period when he took an elbow up high. He went to the locker room and did not return, and head coach Mike Sullivan said afterward he had been diagnosed with a concussion. Not only did the Pens go down to five defensemen; but the guys that remained took a beating in this game, particularly when it came to blocking shots. Kris Letang and Chad Ruhwedel both took shots off the lower body that left them in some pain, but they were able to remain in the game. Those guys definitely gutted it out in what turned out to be a surprisingly gritty effort, and Murray couldn’t have been more complimentary of them after the game.

* A win is a win, but this one is particularly satisfying considering how the Pens’ last game went. After allowing seven goals in a loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday they tightened up defensively tonight, especially at even strength. Sullivan said he liked the compete from his guys and that it was certainly a step in the right direction. Now they just need to have more efforts like this on a consistent basis moving forward.

* The goaltenders and defensemen were fantastic, but that’s not to say the stars didn’t shine. It’s a shame we only get to see Connor McDavid twice a year and once in Pittsburgh, because he’s truly a pleasure to watch. The Pens talked this morning about his incredible speed – not just when it comes to skating, but also skating with the puck and making plays. He showed that on a sequence where he danced around Letang and flipped a backhand at Murray that he was able to absorb with his chest, and later he sniped one late in regulation to tie the game.

On the other side, Phil Kessel had a ton of chances all night and finally converted when his team needed it most – 42 seconds into overtime. All in all, the game started off slow, but became an entertaining affair as it went on.

Finally, Riley Sheahan had a real solid effort in his first game wearing black and gold. It was a strong two-way game for the center, who was responsible defensively and made plays offensively. He capped off an excellent shift by earning the secondary assist on Ian Cole’s regulation goal before providing a tremendous screen for the defenseman. All in all, Sullivan said they were real encouraged by Sheahan’s game.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have activated defenseman Ian Cole from injured reserve, and placed defenseman Matt Hunwick on IR, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Cole, who is a game-time decision for tonight’s game against the New York Rangers per head coach Mike Sullivan, is looking to play for the first time since October 7, when Cole took a Roman Josi slap shot in the face while blocking a shot in a 4-0 defeat of the Nashville Predators. Cole has missed the Pens last three games.

The Penguins play their second division game of the 2017-18 campaign tonight against the Rangers at 7:00 PM at Madison Square Garden. Pittsburgh won its first Metropolitan Division matchup, 3-2, last Wednesday night against the Capitals in Washington, D.C.

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Here are three takeaways from the Pens’ Monday afternoon practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

1. Cole update

Pens defenseman Ian Cole still has swelling around his mouth after being struck by a puck in Pittsburgh’s 4-0 win against Nashville last Saturday.

There is no timeline for Cole’s return, though he was ruled out for Wednesday’s contest in Washington.

“He looks surprisingly better than I thought he would today,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “There’s obvious swelling, but he is making progress.”

2. Ruhwedel in

With Cole out of the lineup, blueliner Chad Ruhwedel is expected to play in his first game of the season.

“I think Chad will step in and help us win,” Sullivan said. “He’s a good player. He’s played a lot of games for us. We know his game is. We know what he’s capable of.

“We understand how important Chad Ruhwedel is to this hockey team. We have complete faith that he’ll step in and he’ll do the best job that he knows how to help us continue to find ways to win games.”

Ruhwedel, 27, appeared in 34 games and six playoff contests last season for the Penguins. He has been the team’s No. 7 defenseman this year.

“You just have to work every day. It’s not easy but once your number gets called you have to step right into a game that everyone else is ready for,” Ruhwedel said. “There are no excuses.

“Staying in shape and getting extra work after practice to make sure I’m ready to go. If my number is called it’s just a matter of being ready.”

3. Hornqvist close

Winger Patric Hornqvist (hand) participated in full practice on Monday, including contact.

As long as he continues to progress, Hornqvist could be upgraded to a game-time decision for Wednesday night in Washington.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “It was fun to have a real practice, did some line rushes and a whole practice. I’m one step closer and that’s all I can tell you guys right now.”