Injured Penguins F Jake Guentzel on schedule for possible return

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins All-Star forward Jake Guentzel's recovery from shoulder surgery is on schedule, opening the door for him to play at some point should the NHL return this season.

General manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday that Guentzel has not endured any setbacks since undergoing surgery Dec. 31 on the right shoulder he injured while awkwardly slamming into the end boards shortly after scoring his 20th goal of the season against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 30.

The initial timetable for Guentzel's potential return was four to six months. Rutherford indicated the 25-year-old Guentzel is near the front end of the timetable.

"If you take the shortest [recovery] period, that would be the end of April, and if it's six months, it's June," Rutherford said. "But I would expect that knowing Jake Guentzel that he's going to be ready, and his rehab is going well. And he's at the point now where he's one of the guys who's returned home and will continue to rehab on his own."

The NHL season remains on pause because of the coronavirus pandemic. It's possible that Guentzel -- who wouldn't have been ready for the start of the playoffs under the normal schedule -- could be available immediately if play doesn't resume for another month or so.

Guentzel was in the middle of his finest season at the time of the injury. His 20 goals led the Penguins, helping them navigate a rocky patch during which captain Sidney Crosby and star center Evgeni Malkin were injured. Pittsburgh was in third place in the Metropolitan Division when the season was suspended.