Penguins Notebook: With Staal sitting, Rupp's repertoire grows
October 10, 2010 4:00 AM
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette file
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With Jordan Staal out of the lineup indefinitely because of a foot infection, the Penguins have turned to another big body to help fill in.
Mike Rupp, normally a feisty winger on the fourth line, has added special teams roles to his repertoire, much to his delight.
"I'm happy to get that opportunity to do those things," Rupp said of taking shifts as a penalty killer and on the second power-play unit in the teams' first two games, including Saturday night against Montreal at Consol Energy Center.
"I'm trying to play within our system, what's wanted of me in those situations, and it's great. I love it."
Rupp had 13 goals in 2009-10 in his first season with the Penguins, more than double his previous career high of six. He occasionally has moved up to play on one of the top two lines.
He has had special teams duty in his career before, but not much with the Penguins.
"Mike is a guy we talked to about penalty killing last season, and he spends a lot of time in practice penalty killing," coach Dan Bylsma said.
"We wanted to get him involved in the preseason [on the power play]. He did a good job in the preseason positioning-wise. For a big guy, he's skating well."
Rupp, the largest player on the club at 6 feet 5, 230 pounds, has been filling the role of one of the more mobile forwards on the revamped power play and sometimes serves as the forward who mans the front of the net.
Bylsma said a handful of players are auditioning to become the primary player who sets up in front of the net to screen the goaltender with the man-advantage. They likely include Chris Kunitz, Eric Tangradi, Rupp and, when he returns, Staal.
"There's a group of us that have been told that that's got to be a staple with our power play -- having that presence in front," Rupp said. "If we can take the goalie's eyes away, the way our power play is designed and with the skill we have on it, I think it's a great chance for us to score goals."
No timetable on Asham
Bylsma indicated that the injury to winger Arron Asham -- believed to involve his left shoulder -- could keep him out longer than originally thought.
At one point, it was thought he might play in the season opener Thursday, but Asham is out indefinitely and it's not known when he might begin skating again.
"He's getting better, but we don't have a timetable on it," Bylsma said.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is among those alarmed by what happened to Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec early in the Thrashers' season opener Friday.
Pavelec, at the far end from the play, collapsed for no apparent reason and was unconscious for several minutes. He spent the night in a hospital and was diagnosed with a concussion from when he hit the ice, but no reason has been found for his collapse.
"That's scary, especially since you don't get much news from it," said Fleury, whose interest goes beyond playing the same position.
Pavelec followed Fleury in playing junior hockey at Cape Breton. The two met when Fleury went back to skate with his old team, and they have been in the same offseason workout group in Montreal.
"He's a good kid," Fleury said. "He's a big goalie, covers the net, gets to the right spot. He's going to have a good career."
There were boos aimed at Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, whose skate inadvertently cut Staal's foot in the playoffs. ... The Penguins scratched winger Eric Godard and defenseman Deryk Engelland. ... The Canadiens were without two key defensemen who are recovering from offseason knee surgery. Roman Hamrlik could return Wednesday for Montreal's home opener and Andrei Markov is expected back later this month, coach Jacques Martin said. Montreal also scratched winger Mathieu Darche.