Ottawa Senators rookie Tim Stützle could be back in the lineup as early as Saturday night in Winnipeg.
Stützle, who was back on the ice with his teammates on Friday for the first time since Monday, has missed the past two games with a “nagging” injury.
“I felt good today,” said Stützle. “So we don't want to risk anything – that's the first point. And we'll see what's going to happen tomorrow. It’s up to the coaches and everybody else [medical staff] to decide what we're doing.”
Stützle admitted Friday that he sustained the undisclosed injury during the recent World Junior tournament in Edmonton. The 19-year-old winger, who scored his first NHL goal last Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, is hopeful to return for the Senators’ first road game of the season but has yet to receive medical clearance.
“It was really bad at the beginning, but I think it's getting better day by day,” he said. “[We’ll take it] day by day and we'll see what's going to happen tomorrow.”
Stützle was back in his regular spot skating as the second-line left winger during the team’s final practice before embarking on a season-high seven-game road trip. His usual centre, Derek Stepan, was absent from the skate for a maintenance day.
“I think road trips are always a lot of fun, so everybody is looking forward to that,” said Stützle. “I think we will have a lot of fun with the team.”
However, Stützle was quick to note that COVID protocols will certainly limit their interactions.
“There are a lot of rules we need to follow, so we can’t do anything else except staying in the hotel,” he said. “But it's going to be a lot of fun to be around the boys.”
Also absent from practice on Friday was goaltender Matt Murray. Head coach D.J. Smith said he gave the netminder the day off to be with his wife and newborn child before the team leaves for the two-week trip.
Murray has not had a great start to the season (1-2-1) and on Thursday night against the Jets he was pulled after allowing four goals on 26 shots through two periods of action.
Murray, who was traded to Ottawa in October and then signed to a four-year $25 million contract, now ranks 34th in the league in goals-against average (3.79) and is 31st in save percentage (.880) among goalies who have played at least two games.
Smith said he didn’t talk to Murray after the loss to Winnipeg.
“I think he's got a lot going on certainly with a new baby in his life and him leaving his wife for 14 days with all this COVID [restrictions], people not being able to come over, and I wanted him to enjoy a day with his family,” said Smith.
Smith, who didn’t announce his starting goaltender for Saturday, said Marcus Hogberg will make his first start of the season at some point on this trip.
Hogberg stopped all three Jets shots he faced in the third period on Thursday night.
When Hogberg does take to the net on this trip, the 25-year-old will be looking to record his first career road victory. In two seasons he has an 0-5-3 record in eight road starts.
Friday practice lines:
Tkachuk - Norris - Batherson
Stutzle - Tierney - C. Brown
Paul - Anisimov - Dadonov
Paquette - White - Watson
Galchenyuk - Peca - Haley
Chabot - Gudbranson
Reilly - Zaitsev
Coburn - J. Brown
Wolanin - Zub