Getting healthier amid COVID-19 outbreak, Pittsburgh Penguins 'headed in the right direction'

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins might be nearing the end of a COVID-19 outbreak that has sent eight players and 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 the Florida Panthers.

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 past seven games to fall into last place in the Metropolitan Division. Danton Heinen, a bit of a surprise up front at forward, has four goals for Pittsburgh, but no one else has more than three, and on the other end of the ice, the Penguins have allowed 35 goals, second most in the division.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.