If there’s ever an upside to an injury, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Paul Thompson knows all about it.
Thompson missed a 15-game stretch, dating back to the end of January, with an upper body injury. It’s the longest stretch of games that Thompson has ever missed in his career - pro and college, and it was an experience he describes as frustrating, with one exception.
“I was fortunate to have an injury where I could still skate a lot,” Thompson said after participating fully in Tuesday’s practice at Coal Street. “I felt really good today. You come back and you’re a little fresh.”
Head coach John Hynes on Tuesday said Thompson is ready to return to the lineup.
The time off means Thompson will return to the Penguins lineup with a little less wear and tear as the team embarks on a seven-game road trip this Friday. Before he was injured, Thompson was among the team’s leading scorers with 14 goals and 22 points, and he was tops with five game-winning goals.
He was also on quite a tear before the injury, posting five goals in an eight-game span.
“I felt like I was getting back to where I was at the beginning of the year,” Thompson said. “I was happy with how I was playing and unfortunately I got hurt. Now, it’s like a whole mini season for me here.”
Thompson’s return will give the Penguins offense that only scored 10 goals in its last seven games some much-needed depth. Thompson said he learned something while watching the team play over the last month, and now that he’s ready to return he’s ready to help out.
But that doesn’t mean Thompson is feeling pressure to put the puck in the net.
“I know I can provide offense, but the way I’m going to do that is by playing the game the right way,” he said. “I’m going to concentrate on that and then the offense will come.”
Kostopoulos inked for rest of season
Pittsburgh signed forward Tom Kostopoulos to a two-way NHL deal on Tuesday. As a result, Kostopoulos was placed on waivers on Tuesday at noon and will be re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by today at noon if he clears. He practiced with the team Tuesday morning and was clearly happy to convert his prior PTO into a contract for the rest of the season.
“I’m glad its done and now I can move on with things,” Kostopoulos said.
The Penguins hope Kostopoulos simply keeps up what he’s been doing of late. In his last four games, Kostopoulos has three goals and four points while playing on the power play and late in games.
For a player who has spent most of his NHL career as a grinder, the offensive opportunities are welcome.
“It’s fun being in offensive situations, playing in the last minute when the team needs a goal,” Kostopoulos said. “For a long time I’ve been watching those situations from the bench.”
Will the record stand?
Kostopoulos is the Penguins all-time goal leader with 100, and it’s a record he hopes is never broken. It’s not that Kostopoulos is being selfish, but quite the opposite.
“If anyone else starts putting up goals hopefully they get called up,” Kostopoulos said. “I don’t want anyone to get stuck here that long where they break (the record). It’s one of those records where you don’t want to see someone score 100 in Wilkes-Barre and not get a chance in Pittsburgh before that.”
All quiet on the movement front
Beau Bennett’s return to Wilkes-Barre never materialized on Tuesday as winger Zach Boychuk was claimed on waivers by Nashville. That opened a roster spot, and Pittsburgh promptly brought Bennett back into the fold.
Dupuis not so close
Hynes said left wing Steve MacIntyre will retrun from his injury absence within the next week and will be ready to play at some point during the upcoming road trip. MacIntyre hasn’t played since Feb. 9 due to an injury.
C Phil Dupuis is still considered out for the long-term, but Hynes didn’t say he was lost for the season. Dupuis hasn’t played since Jan. 12.