It took most of the season -- and a couple of serious injuries -- for defenseman Brooks Orpik to get a spot on the Penguins' penalty-killing unit.
Getting him off of it might be tougher.
Orpik has logged 18 minutes, 23 seconds of short-handed ice time in the past seven games and has not been on the ice for any of the seven power-play goals the Penguins have allowed in that span.
And while that stat had a large asterisk attached in the Penguins' 4-2 victory in Washington Sunday, when Orpik took two minors while the Penguins were short-handed and was in the penalty box for both Capitals goals, he has earned generally positive reviews for his penalty-killing work.
"We've tried Brooks a few times, and he's responding really well," said assistant coach Andre Savard, who handles the Penguins' penalty-killing and defensemen. "He seems confident out there."
That's probably because he is. Orpik is a physical, defensive defenseman, the kind of guy for whom penalty-killing usually is part of the job description.
"It's something I like to do, but it's not something I'm going to sit there and complain about and dwell on," Orpik said. "With what I bring to the table, I would think I could do a pretty good job, but it's not my choice. There are other guys who can do it."
Two of them, Mark Eaton and Rob Scuderi, are injured. Eaton won't play again this season after having knee surgery, while Scuderi has been out for two weeks because of surgery to repair a broken finger.
"There was kind of a void when [Scuderi] went down," Orpik said.
Orpik has helped to fill it and hopes to remain in the penalty-killing rotation when Scuderi returns.
"I would [like to], but it's not my choice," he said. "The more guys you can have doing it, the better, because you give other guys a rest, especially guys who play the power play and [get] a lot of minutes.
"Penalty-killing minutes are probably the hardest minutes you play, so whenever you can give some of those guys a rest, I think it benefits everybody."
Buffalo, which will visit Mellon Arena at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow, is trying to overtake Philadelphia for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
One of the key variables for the Sabres during the closing weeks of the season figures to be the play of winger Thomas Vanek, an accomplished goal-scorer caught in an untimely slump. After getting a league-high 13 goals in February, Vanek had one in the previous eight games before he scored in a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers last night.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff kept him on the bench for all but 95 seconds of the final 35 minutes in a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday to Carolina.
Former Penguins winger Andre Roy, who went to Tampa Bay on re-entry waivers last season, has gotten some unscheduled time off. The Lightning sent him home for a week, with pay, after a meltdown in Philadelphia Thursday.
Roy's emotions apparently were stoked after a fight with Flyers winger Riley Cote -- a fight in which Roy did not fare well -- was replayed on the Wachovia Center scoreboard. He had to be restrained by a linesman and coach John Tortorella.
As the game moved along, Roy reportedly made throat-slitting gestures at Cote and yelled at him that he was "[expletive] dead."
Lightning general manager Jay Feaster issued a statement announcing the suspension, which apparently was influenced by "other situations that have taken place this season involving Andre," and said Roy has been told to not discuss the incident with reporters.
NBC will broadcast the Penguins' meeting with Philadelphia Sunday at 12:08 p.m. Per its contract with the league, NBC can carry one more Penguins game during the regular season and is expected to select the March 30 game against the Rangers.