Winger Beau Bennett has recovered sufficiently from a hand/wrist injury to play today, but it won’t be with the Penguins. He will play with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment that coach Dan Bylsma said will last “a few games.”
That’s fine with Bennett, who has been out since late November. He had surgery, and then had a setback in February.
“I’m just excited to play some games and get back into some action,” Bennett said Friday after practicing with the Penguins at Southpointe. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Bennett has been skating for some time, on his own, then in a limited capacity with the team and, finally, with full clearance for contact the past several days.
“My legs feel as good as they’ve ever felt,” he said. “I’ve never had three months of just ‘bag skating.’
“Hands are coming along. My shot is not where I want it to be, but I still feel pretty comfortable [on the ice].”
Wilkes-Barre plays tonight at home against Utica, and Sunday at Albany.
Although he is practicing with the Penguins with no limitations, and looking strong while doing it, defenseman Kris Letang does not foresee an imminent return to the lineup.
“There are still some days I don’t feel quite right,” said Letang, who had a stroke Jan. 29. “I just happen to be enjoying some practices, getting back into a rhythm with my teammates. It’s been fun. It’s something I was missing.
“On the ice, it’s fine. It’s more outside the ice that it’s a problem.”
He added that he’s “trying to get into game shape.”
Friday, among other drills, he practiced with a top penalty-killing unit but not on the power play.
Letang is in touch with doctors every day. While he’s not sure when he might play, he has no fear about exertion.
“It happened in my bathroom, so it could happen anywhere,” he said of the stroke. “I don’t feel [at risk] skating with the guys and [having] contact.”
Letang disputed the notion that the stroke caused him to lose weight.
“I don’t know why people were saying that,” he said. “I was pretty heavy, actually. I had to shrink down a little bit.
“I feel normal. I feel fine right now. I don’t even know why people were worrying about my weight.”
Center Joe Vitale missed the team practice because of an unspecified injury. He won’t play today against Tampa Bay or Sunday against St. Louis, Bylsma said.
Top-line center Sidney Crosby and left winger Chris Kunitz were given the day off from practice but are expected to play today.
Defenseman Paul Martin (broken hand/surgery) continues to skate separately from practice.
Neal’s pocket takes a hit
Penguins winger James Neal and Detroit Red Wings forward David Legwand each were fined $5,000 by the NHL for incidents Thursday in Detroit.
Neal’s fine was for cross-checking Detroit’s Luke Glendening in the second period of the Red Wings’ 5-4 overtime win. Neal received a minor penalty.
In the third period, Legwand butt-ended Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in the midsection. Legwand received a major penalty and a game misconduct.
Time to cut back
Taking retaliatory and unnecessary penalties ranks high as a problem the Penguins want to correct before the playoffs begin in less than a month.
“I think that’s at the top or near the top” of the team’s priorities, Bylsma said.
“As a group, we have to understand. We’ve noted it. We’ve pointed it out.”
Center Brandon Sutter backed up Bylsma.
“The last few games, we’ve been talking about some of the penalties we’ve been taking,” Sutter said. “We can be better. We don’t need to give teams opportunity like that. They’re not great plays or smart plays. We can be a little bit smarter there.”
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.