Zach Sill wasn’t happy with what he was wearing during practice on Wednesday at the Toyota Sportsplex.
The veteran center hasn’t played since being cut on the arm by a skate blade on Jan. 25. This week he joined his teammates for the first time in practice, but Sill was relegated to wearing the red “no contact” jersey. For a player who has spent the last five years tailoring his game on physical play, not being able to throw a hit goes against the grain.
“I hate the red jersey. I hate what it signifies,” Sill said. “Aside from that, it’s nice to be out there with the guys. I feel good.”
Head coach John Hynes said Sill is a ways off from returning but he hopes to get him back into action before the end of the regular season. That’s fine with Sill, who has spent the last few weeks doing some light skating and now practicing on a limited basis.
“It does help (that I could skate). You don’t lose as much as you would with a lower body injury,” he said. “I definitely want to come back before the playoffs and get a few games under my belt. Get the feeling back.”
The injury came at an inopportune time for Sill. He had just returned from his first NHL call-up - a 20-game stint with Pittsburgh, and scored a goal in his first game back with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before suffering the injury the next night.
“It was upsetting coming back and feeling confident after a good run up top, but stuff happens in hockey and you just have to get through it and move on,” Sill said.
And that’s exactly what Sill is doing. He said his conditioning isn’t far off and his arm feels good. But what would feel even better is a chance to get back in a game and put the skate blade injury behind him once and for all.
“It’s terrible luck. It’s my first bad cut and hopefully it won’t happen again,” Sill said, adding there is time to salvage the season. “Playoffs is the time of year when everything counts. We’re working hard to get there and set ourselves up for a good run.”
• Newly-signed Conor Sheary, who just wrapped up his college career with the University of Massachusetts, has been practicing with the Penguins this week. Sheary describes himself as a small forward with speed and playmaking ability. He said a few other teams expressed an interest in signing him, but he chose the Penguins for their track record of being able to develop undrafted free agents into NHL players.
“That factored into it,” Sheary said. “I wanted to start my pro career off right and this seemed like a good fit for me.”
Sheary added that it’s nice to join a team in the middle of a playoff race and said there is a winning culture in the Penguins locker room. As far as getting into a few games down the stretch or even the postseason, Hynes said he wasn’t sure when Sheary would play. Still, just as important is Sheary’s first experience of being around and pro team and seeing how things work.
“He’s going to be with us next year, and we’ll have him at development camp this summer and then rookie camp,” Hynes said. “It’s about getting him familiar with how we do things, the players and staff and the environment created here.”
• D Barry Goers was signed to an AHL deal for the remainder of the season. Goers has bounced between Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton all year and has posted five points in 12 games with the Penguins. “It’s a nice thing for Barry. He’s been up and down throughout the year and he deserves to be here,” Hynes said. “He’s a high-quality kid and he’s shown he can step into our lineup and play.”
• LW Harry Zolnierczyk sat out practice for the second day, but Hynes said he should be ready for the weekend.
• Pittsburgh reassigned C Jayson Megna to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday.