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Hornqvist getting closer to return for Penguins


in Game One of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena on May 29, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Bruce Bennett

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a rough start to the 2017-18 season (probably an understatement, actually) as they head into Saturday night’s Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Nashville Predators.

They did get a little bit of positive news on Saturday morning when injured forward Patric Hornqvist was able to return to the ice and take part in the team’s morning skate. He is recovering from hand surgery that sidelined him for the entire preseason and the Penguins’ first two regular season games.

He still has not been cleared for contact and is not quite ready to return, but he said on Saturday that he is hoping to back in the lineup very soon.

“The first step was to get back on the ice with the players,” Hornqvist said via the Penguins’ website. “Hopefully Monday I can improve, Tuesday improve and hopefully I’m back pretty soon.”

Hornqvist was the Game 6 hero for the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final series when his goal with less than two minutes to play helped the team clinch its fifth Stanley Cup and second in a row.

His absence, as well as the offseason losses of Nick Bonino (who returns on Saturday night as a member of the Predators), Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz, has put a pretty significant dent in the Penguins’ forward depth. They have some young players down in the American Hockey League, Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese specifically, that could make an impact later this season and but will still probably need to address the third-and fourth-line center spots via trade.

After hosting Nashville on Saturday night the Penguins return to action on Wednesday night in Washington against the Capitals.