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The Penguins gave defenseman Ron Hainsey his space in the dressing room following Friday's practice at Heinz Field.
Then again, all of the skaters found more freedom than usual to move among the media after practice, a perk of training at a facility with rooms designed to shelter 53-man NFL rosters rather than 20-plus hockey players.
Hainsey, the 35-year-old veteran acquired in Thursday's trade with Carolina, donned black and gold for the first time during a short practice, but the pageantry of the Saturday's Stadium Series game with Philadelphia required him to wait a few days to learn more about the Penguins' typical daily routines. Breaking in practice gear and settling into a spot in the Penguins' practice and game-day dressing rooms must wait.
“Certainly fun to come in and be a part of this right away,” Hainsey said. “It's a little bit hectic at this point, but I've done a few meetings (with coaches) already. … There's a pretty big opportunity to come in and have some responsibility right away.”
Indeed, with Olli Maatta (hand) and Trevor Daley (knee) out for several more weeks and Justin Schultz (concussion) and Kris Letang (upper body) dealing with ailments, Hainsey walks into a dressing room that longs for some blue-line stability.
If the defensive pairs coach Mike Sullivan used at practice were any indication, Hainsey might step into a shutdown role for the Penguins. He skated on the right side of a pair with Brian Dumoulin, another tall, sturdy defenseman with reliable own-zone tendencies.
Schultz and Letang joined the Penguins at the outdoor practice, and Sullivan described them afterwards as “game-time decisions.”
While Schultz, cleared for contact for the first time, skated with his usual partner, Ian Cole, and participated in all special teams drills, Letang worked with occasional healthy scratch Steve Oleksy and stood to the side during most situational work.
Goalie guessing game
The paint job on Marc-Andre Fleury's customized mask for the Stadium Series — a homage to his favorite current and former Penguins teammates — stirred fan speculation several weeks ago about whether the longtime netminder expected to leave the organization via trade ahead of the March 1 deadline.
His status with the team remains somewhat unclear: General manager Jim Rutherford on Thursday said he would prefer to keep his veteran through the rest of the season but indicated there's still potential for a move, based on Fleury's wishes.
With that uncertainty looming large over Saturday's game, Sullivan declined to signal whether Fleury will get a grand send-off ahead of the deadline by naming a starting goalie.
“It's my responsibility first and foremost to try to win hockey games,” Sullivan said. “That's how we look at (lineup decisions). Having said that, we're very appreciative of what players have brought to this team and their body of work.”
Following their matchup with the Flyers, the Penguins will travel to Dallas and Chicago for games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
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