UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Penguins general manager Ray Shero and his staff went to a lot of trouble to assemble the Penguins roster for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Penguins' opening-round series against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, they finally got to see what it looks like when it's intact.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik and winger James Neal returned from unspecified injuries, meaning the Penguins did not have to sit anyone because of injuries for the first time since they added Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray, Brenden Morrow and Jussi Jokinen shortly before the NHL trade deadline.
Orpik had missed five games because of what is believed to be a leg injury and winger Neal got back in uniform after sitting out two with an apparent ankle problem.
"This time of year, you want to heal as quickly as possible," Orpik said. "It never heals as quickly as you want it to."
Although his goal had been to be ready for Game 1, that never came close to happening.
"I had it in my head that I was going to start the series, but that probably wasn't very realistic," Orpik said. "Sometimes, you think you're smarter than the doctors."
Orpik figured to assume his customary workload, and Neal was adamant that he wasn't looking for a reduced role, either.
"It's playoffs," he said. "I'm not going to go back in unless I can help the team out and play my best. I'm not going to go in and try to play half the way I can. That's just not the way it is."
While it's unlikely their recoveries were accelerated by having to watch games in street clothes, both made it clear that they didn't enjoy being spectators.
Orpik, who had not missed a playoff game to injury before this year, said the Penguins' 5-4 overtime victory Sunday was "the most nervous I've ever been," and Neal volunteered that, "it's definitely nerve-wracking, watching. I don't know how guys do it."
Silence golden on injuries
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has declined to divulge anything about his lineup or injuries since the playoffs started, and his players have been instructed to do the same.
"The need-to-know basis of that is where we're at in terms of not having anyone talk about what the injury situation is or who has injuries or what's going on with our lineup," Bylsma said.
New territory for Tavares
For the past several years, after practices and games, sometimes twice a day, Penguins center Sidney Crosby answers questions from reporters -- some of whom jockey for position around his locker stall several minutes before he even leaves the ice.
Islanders center John Tavares, a rising star who is in the playoffs for the first time, is getting a sense of what Crosby goes through.
"It's part of this time of the year," Tavares told a group of reporters squeezed around his stall after New York's game-day skate. "There's attention on the playoffs. There's a lot of attention on every team, and it's been a while since our team has been in the playoffs.
"So people are excited. People want to hear from us. For myself, I know I get a lot of that attention. It's just something you get used to and you accept, and you enjoy it as well. It's a great time."
Then he smiled.
"You [reporters] don't give me that much of a hard time, so I'm OK with it."
Tavares is aware of how Crosby has dealt with a high interview demand over time.
"I think he's done a great job of being a great professional in the way that he handles himself," Tavares said. "He's got great leadership and speaks very well. He's the voice of their team and the face of the league. He's earned that right and handled it very well."
Crosby and Tavares might well be among the three players announced as finalists Friday for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the NHL's most valuable player in the regular season.
Crosby certainly seems to be impressed by what he has seen of Tavares.
"He's definitely, every year, gotten better and better," Crosby said. "He does a lot of things well, not just one thing in particular.
"Skating was always kind of a knock on him early on, and he seemed to improve that. He's got a great shot, as we've seen a lot this year. He makes plays. He's strong.
"He's a pretty complete player and he competes hard every night. He's done a great job for them and is probably a big reason they've had success."
Iginla on the old building
Penguins winger Jarome Iginla has spent most of his career in the Western Conference, so he hasn't played at Nassau Coliseum a lot. He was asked if he could tell that the arena, opened in 1972, was old.
"Oh, absolutely," he said, then turned a bit diplomatic. "I would guess, uh, the oldest? But, once you're on the ice, it's got character. I haven't played many times here with a full, charged-up crowd."
Four players -- Murray, Morrow, Iginla and center Brandon Sutter -- skipped the Penguins' optional game-day skate. ... The Penguins scratched defensemen Deryk Engelland, Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo, and forwards Dustin Jeffrey, Beau Bennett, Joe Vitale and Tyler Kennedy. ... Crosby will be on a regional cover of the Sports Illustrated dated May 13.
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly Dave Molinari: email@example.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 8, 2013 4:00 AM