Before Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Alexander Picard there was Brian Strait.
It's kind of easy to forget, but Strait was the first defenseman the Penguins recalled this season from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before injuries and a suspension ravaged the team's blue line.
His first crack at being a fill-in was almost over before it started.
In a 4-2 road win against the Wild Oct. 18, Strait played all of 6:52 before he suffered a hyperextended elbow.
Eight weeks later, Strait finally resumed practicing with the team. While the team won't give a time table for his return, or if he'll even resume playing at the NHL level instead of being assigned to the AHL, the fact that Dan Bylsma felt the need to indicate he wouldn't play Tuesday against the Red Wings seemed like a positive sign.
Earlier this week, he talked about his recovery.
How do you feel?
"I feel good. Aerobically, I feel good. I’ve been skating for about three weeks or so. I feel good that way. Now it’s just getting my timing back and battling a little bit in practice. It’s been a long time being out."
Do you have a date circled to return?
"I feel like I’m close. But its one of those things were every couple of days, you’re going to have to reevaluate it. I’m just excited I’m back practicing at least. That’s good. That means I’ll be back sooner than later."
Do you feel you're missing out on an opportunity given all the other injuries on defense?
"It is tough. It’s one of those things, especially a guy like me, where opportunities are there. But it’s hockey. Injures happen. But there’s a lot of hockey left."
Is there a benefit to an injury like yours in that you can still skate and maintain your conditioning?
"I think so. A lower-body injury, obviously you’re going to be off the ice a little longer. This game is more lower-body (dependent) with your legs than you’re arms anyways. At least for a guy like me, a defensive defenseman. I think that’s made it easier on my recovery."
Is there any initial issues with regards to confidence with this injury?
"Yeah. I think even with practice, you got to build up some confidence with pushing guys around and being pushed around. Its one of those things where it’s an injury. You’re going to be a little unconfident at first. You’re going to feel a little frail. But once you’re pushed around a little, you’ll be like 'I’m not made out of glass.'"
(Photos: First-Christian Petersen/Getty Images; Second-Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)