Penguins Notebook: Kevlar socks remain unfashionable item


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WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Defenseman Brooks Orpik is one of the few Penguins who owns a pair of protective socks.

But he's one of the many who has no intention of wearing them.

"My dad gave me a pair last year, and I can't say I didn't like them," Orpik said before the Penguins faced Winnipeg at the MTS Centre Friday night.

"Because I never tried them."

Those socks, made primarily of Kevlar, are designed to resist skate-blade cuts, the kind Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson suffered when Penguins winger Matt Cooke's skate came down on the back of his left leg Wednesday night.

Cooke's blade sliced through 70 percent of Karlsson's Achilles tendon, requiring surgery that effectively ended his season.

That incident renewed talk about the socks, much as visors become a prime topic of discussion when a player suffers an eye injury from a stick or puck. Karlsson's injury, though, didn't seem to change how most Penguins feels about them.

Right winger Tyler Kennedy acknowledged that discomfort is the main problem players have with the socks, and said that seeing what happened to Karlsson won't prompt him to try them.

"I guess I'm taking a risk," he said.

Right winger James Neal is one of a handful of Penguins -- Beau Bennett and Dustin Jeffrey are believed to be the only others -- who isn't willing to do that.

He said he has worn protective socks virtually his entire pro career and considers them an indispensable part of his equipment, especially since his own skate gashed his knee during a game in Toronto when he played for Dallas.

"I just wear it for safety, because who knows what's going to happen when you're battling?" he said.

"You see what happened with [Cooke and Karlsson].

"Skates do come up and hit you. It's part of your equipment that I think more guys should use."

Tangradi in Jets' lineup

Winger Eric Tangradi, acquired Wednesday from the Penguins, made his Winnipeg debut Friday night.

"It's kind of like seeing your ex-girlfriend at the bar the next night," he said.

Tangradi, a healthy scratch for his final eight games with the Penguins, clearly had lost the confidence of the coaching staff.

"I feel like, at times, I had a shorter leash than most guys there," he said.

"I know the way I'm capable of playing and I can honestly say that, at times, I showed my game in Pittsburgh and, at other times, it was tough to be in a lineup for one game, then out of the lineup for three and to play minimal minutes.

"Here, I think I'm getting a fair opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it."

Cooke to remain physical

Despite the controversy stemming from Karlsson's injury, Cooke -- who has made a well-chronicled effort to clean up his game since the start of last season -- said he will not change his rugged style.

"I can't," he said. "I still have to have that element [of physical play] to have success in this league."

He described the injury to Karlsson as "a freak accident" and said, "there was nothing I could do to stop it."

Orpik joins 600 club

Orpik earned a slice of franchise history Friday night, becoming the seventh player to appear in 600 games with the Penguins.

The others are forwards Mario Lemieux (915), Jaromir Jagr (806), Jean Pronovost (755), Rick Kehoe (722), Ron Schock (619) and defenseman Ron Stackhouse (621).

Of those, Lemieux is the only one to spend his entire career with the Penguins, something Orpik is at least a candidate to do.

"It's one of those things you don't try to think about too much," he said. "I probably didn't think this way when I was younger, but now you just approach it day by day, as cliched as that sounds.

"When you start thinking about stuff like that or about when your contract ends, I think you lose focus on the game tonight or the current situation you're in."

Tip-ins

The Penguins scratched forwards Zach Boychuk and Dustin Jeffrey and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. ... The Penguins planned to spend the night in Winnipeg, then fly to Buffalo Saturday morning.

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First Published February 16, 2013 5:00 AM


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