Former Penguins winger and Upper St. Clair native Ryan Malone has had to convince people that it was not torture to watch his old team win the Stanley Cup.
Even his wife, Abby, kiddingly wondered.
"Aren't you mad or anything?" she asked him.
"Not really," Malone said.
Malone, who advanced to the Stanley Cup final with his hometown team in 2008, signed with Tampa Bay that summer. With the Lightning playing at Mellon Arena last night, he was back in town for the first time since the Penguins won their final rematch with Detroit in June.
"You don't think of yourself being out there," he said of watching the Penguins win the title a year after he came so close with them.
"It was fun to watch. Being from Pittsburgh, I'm always going to be a fan, and it's nice to see them get the job done."
Malone traded text messages with several of the Penguins after they won and caught up with several of them at the Atlanta wedding of former Penguins winger Colby Armstrong in late June.
At this point, though, Malone has moved on with his career. He has had a quick start this season, with six goals in six games going into last night.
"I'm getting some bounces," he said, knocking on his wooden stall in the cramped Mellon Arena visitors' locker room.
After Tampa Bay finished 14th in the Eastern Conference and well out of a playoff spot last season -- a year after Malone was in the final -- he itches to get back to the postseason. He ramped up his workouts during the long offseason with that goal in mind.
"This year, I'm just a little hungry to get back there after coming so close that year with Pittsburgh," he said.
"At least for a round or so, you want to get in there and see what happens."
With the Penguins in the midst of a stretch of five games in 14 days, there is no rush to work little-used players into the lineup. That includes backup goaltender Brent Johnson, who has started one game.
Coach Dan Bylsma said giving No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury a lot of work was part of the design, even before Fleury began the season 6-0.
"We sat down early on in the year and talked about the number of games we want our goaltender to play [each month], what we think is a good number," Bylsma said.
"We do deviate from it in certain circumstances. Right now, we're seeing a lot of Marc-Andre Fleury, but we're prepared to meet the number that we talked about by the end of the month.
"So, we're prepared to see Brent again in the near future."
Forward Chris Bourque has played in two of the Penguins' first eight games, defenseman Martin Skoula none.
"It's different circumstances for different players," Bylsma said.
"It happens every year at the beginning of the year, where there's a player who probably deserves to play, you'd like to see play, who's not getting in because it's somewhere in the first five, 10 games of the year. You try to wait to see how the injuries shake out.
"So, Martin hasn't gotten in yet, but we're real confident about when he does get in what he can add. That probably will happen after the first 10, 15 games. You'll see more of a changing of the lineup."
Bylsma was unaware he was going for his 25th regular-season win as an NHL coach. He entered the game 24-4-4 since he replaced Michel Therrien Feb. 15. Bourque and Skoula were the Penguins' scratches. ...Tampa Bay scratched defenseman Lukas Krajicek and winger Todd Fedoruk.
For more on the Penguins, read the new Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.