Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik got back on the ice Friday for the first time since sustaining a concussion from an attack by Boston enforcer Shawn Thornton in a 3-2 Bruins victory a week ago at TD Garden.
That, however, doesn't necessarily mean he will be back in the lineup anytime soon.
Orpik "did have a light exercise on the ice in an environment he's used to as part of his protocol," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He still is symptomatic at this point in time, with his concussion. The light skate was due to the protocol to stay active."
He added that Orpik's on-ice session "is to keep him active, not an indication of progression" and pointed out that, while Orpik routinely plays through injuries that "have been pretty substantial," that isn't an option in this instance.
"He's a tough guy," Bylsma said. "He's a tough customer. He has a high tolerance for pain but [with] a concussion, you're not really dealing with pain. You're dealing with symptoms, and those types of things."
Those symptoms, Bylsma added, continue to be monitored and evaluated by medical professionals.
Still, Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who knows a bit about dealing with concussions, said it's "a nice first step" to have Orpik back on skates.
"When you're sitting around and not doing anything, it's nice to get back out there," Crosby said. "Even if it's not a lot, just getting back with your team; hopefully, that's a good sign."
The short-term outlook is considerably clearer for two other injured regulars, defenseman Rob Scuderi and winger Tanner Glass. Both skated with and after Orpik Friday, although they did not participate in the game-day skate in advance of the Penguins game against New Jersey.
"Hopefully, within the next three to five days [they'll be] back to practice with the team," Bylsma said.
Devils enforcer weighs in
New Jersey winger Cam Janssen entered the game Friday night with 14 career points and 764 penalty minutes in 329 NHL appearances.
All of which provides some context for his rather interesting perspective on the Thornton-Orpik incident, and Orpik's refusal to fight Thornton earlier in that game.
"Orpik, he's a great player," Janssen said. "I do respect him a lot. He's a hell of a hockey player. He hits guys, he catches guy with their head down. He hurts guys because he's powerful in his hits.
"I do the same thing. But you do that, you crush guys like that, you're going to have to step up and stick up for yourself once in a while. Because if you don't do that, then the other team feels like they haven't had their justice yet. Then the game becomes a donnybrook.
"You don't fight Thornton, Thornton calls you out, he's calling you out in front of everybody, and you don't fight, then it's not over. Then, we've got to get our justice. We've got to get our justice and then something happens and, boom, that happens. All of a sudden, he's hurt.
"If Orpik would [fight], once in a while -- once in a while -- you don't have to trade punches, you don't have to stand in there and go toe-to-toe. If Orpik just would have dropped his gloves and grabbed on -- he's a strong guy --grabbed on, held off Thornton, maybe took a couple [punches], and threw him down or whatever the case it, then it's over."
Injuries piling up
The Penguins have lost 153 man-games to injury this season.
No fewer than 43 of those have involved their top four defensemen -- Orpik, Scuderi, Paul Martin and Kris Letang.
Even so, the Penguins entered the game against New Jersey with a firm grip on first place in the Metropolitan Division and the NHL's fourth-best goals-allowed average ( 2.22).
"Guys had to step up there," Bylsma said. "Our team has the luxury of being very deep at defense."
Consequently, NHL-caliber defensemen such as Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland occasionally have been unable to hold down a spot in the lineup.
"I think you had a capable guy who's not playing, who's sitting in the stands," Bylsma said. "They're not second-class citizens moving into a situation [when someone is injured]."
Thornton ruling today
Boston Bruins winger Shawn Thornton had an in-person hearing Friday with the NHL's department of player safety related to his actions in a game a week ago that left Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik with a concussion. According to that league department's Twitter account, the length of Thornton's suspension will be announced today.