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Penguins’ COVID-19 outbreak easing as 2 return to practice

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins may be nearing the end of a COVID-19 outbreak that’s sent eight players and head coach Mike Sullivan into the NHL’s protocol in recent weeks.

Defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Marcus Pettersson practiced Wednesday and assistant coach Todd Reirden — who is filling in while Sullivan is in the protocol — said both will be game-time decisions Thursday night when Pittsburgh welcomes Florida.

The two defensemen went into the COVID-19 protocol Oct. 31 after testing positive. Both players said Wednesday they were symptomatic during their quarantine.

The Penguins remain without captain Sidney Crosby, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and Sullivan. Crosby and Dumoulin went into the protocol on Nov. 3 and Sullivan joined them a day later.

“Certainly, they’re headed in the right direction,” Reirden said. “And I hope for their sake and the ones in their family that are around them that hopefully, they are over the hump here in terms of dealing with some tough times that are going on health-wise.”

The Penguins started 3-0-2, but have gone 1-4-2 in their last seven games to fall into last place in the Metropolitan Division.

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Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (2) and goaltender Casey DeSmith, center, defend as Florida Panthers left wing Carter Verhaeghe (23) attempts a shot during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla.

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