Following lengthy layoff, Penguins Hornqvist ready to battle
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By WILL GRAVES
PITTSBURGH (AP) Patience isn't a virtue that comes easy to Patric Hornqvist. It typically doesn't come at all.
The veteran Pittsburgh Penguins forward is perpetually antsy, a ball of energy who is eager to get onto the next thing, whatever it is. On the ice he typically bolts to the front of the opposing net and turns himself into a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 190-pound anchor spoiling for a shoving match or a goal and sometimes both.
On the bench he's restless, his mouth moving relentlessly while waiting for his next shift. His media sessions are brisk and blunt and usually end not when the questions are done being asked but when the 33-year-old Swede decides he's had enough.
So yeah, being part of the group of nine players who were required to self-isolate as a precaution during the early portion of training camp wasn't easy.
"I was used to it from the week of quarantine I had when I first came over (from Sweden)," Hornqvist said. "A lot of workouts and conditioning and try and stay in the best shape I can and be ready for the opportunity I have in front of me."
One in which the Penguins will need Hornqvist to do Hornqvist-like things if they want to make a legitimate bid for a third Stanley Cup in five years. He scored the clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2017 Cup final against Nashville and has become part of the team's leadership group alongside captain Sidney Crosby and Russian star Evgeni Malkin.
Pittsburgh relies on Hornqvist's play to help snap them out of the doldrums. He's scored 21 postseason goals during his five playoff appearances with the Penguins and has the ability to shift momentum with one shift, equal parts frantic and focused.
Hornqvist's decision to stay in Sweden during the opening portion of training camp is a testament to his work ethic. The protocols in Sweden - which hasn't been hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as the U.S. - allowed Hornqvist to meet regularly with his trainer. When given the choice to come back to Pittsburgh early or stay in Sweden with his family while getting an equitable amount of work in, he chose to stay home. Saying goodbye to his wife and daughter wasn't easy.
"It's a tough situation but we're all in the same boat," Hornqvist said. `It's an opportunity for all of us to do something."
Hornqvist skated alongside Patrick Marleau and Jared McCann on Wednesday and is anxious to gauge their chemistry during a scheduled intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday, Hornqvist's first game-like action since March 10.
"It's been a long time here for me to not playing a game," Hornqvist said. "I know it's going to be tough and going to be intense ... that's pretty much the best part."
It always is for Hornqvist, who praised head coach Mike Sullivan's attention to detail during a camp unlike any other.
"Right now we have two full weeks with a real team to practice, you can go through small things for a longer time," Hornqvist said. "That's going to be key when we start playing. If you are dialed in."
While Hornqvist is good to go on Thursday, Crosby is probably not. Though Crosby skated on Wednesday morning, when his teammates came out for practice, he retired to the dressing room and missed his third straight workout due to an undisclosed health reason. Still, his ability to skate provides some optimism. The Penguins will open the playoffs against Montreal in Toronto on Aug. 1.
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Updated July 22, 2020