Arron Asham will not be in the lineup tonight when the Penguins face the Anaheim Ducks at Consol Energy Center, but the veteran winger has given himself an accelerated timetable in his comeback from a concussion.
"Head-wise, confidence-wise, I feel good," Asham said after returning to practice Tuesday in a noncontact role. "It's a matter of getting my legs under me and getting a couple of good skates in here this week.
"I'm planning on being ready for the weekend; it's just a matter of whether the coaches feel confident enough to have me in or if I can crack the lineup -- the team's playing pretty good right now."
The Penguins play afternoon road games Saturday at Philadelphia and Sunday at Buffalo, but coach Dan Bylsma was not as confident that Asham will be ready that quickly. Asham said he expects to be cleared for contact today.
"I think he wanted to play two weeks ago," Bylsma said.
This will be the 13th game Asham has missed with the injury, which he said he got from an elbow to the head in a Jan. 11 game at Washington. He did not come out of the lineup right away and engaged in a lively fight with Florida's Krys Barch two nights later.
"I tried playing through it for two games," Asham said. "The fight the next night didn't help, but that's the way it goes."
Asham, a rugged player who has two goals, 11 points and 53 penalty minutes in 41 games, said he will not back down from fights after his second career concussion and second in two seasons.
"I had to do it to get in the league and I have to do it to stay in the league," he said. "It's a part of the game. It's part of my job. I'm not worried about it. I haven't gotten a concussion from a fight yet.
"It seems like [concussions are caused by] more the hits than fighting unless you get knocked out."
Asham is not an enforcer, whose No. 1 role is fighting.
"There are less and less super heavyweights in the league," he said. "Your fourth-line guys now are guys who can play the game, skate and keep up with the play. It's unfortunate, but that's the way the game's going.
"Thank God I can skate."
A spate of concussions has the NHL, its fans and critics examining the game. There is a popular thought that recently the referees have not called "obstruction" penalties such as hooking, holding and interference as closely as they have the past several seasons.
Bylsma advocated a couple of potential rules changes -- specifically, abandoning the trapezoid behind the nets to let goaltenders handle the puck anywhere again, and reinstituting the center red line for the purposes of whistling two-line passes.
On the trapezoid, Bylsma said: "I was a big proponent of limiting the ability of the goalie to play the puck. ... But they've gotten around it. Goalies are coming out and playing the puck and still playing it behind the net. I wouldn't be against looking at taking it out."
As for the red line, Bylsma figures bringing it back into play could increase safety.
"The red line has increased the speed of the game," he said. "I think maybe slowing it down a little bit by putting the red line back in is something to think about. I'm not saying we should hold and hook, but I think it's a slower game with the red line in. I think you'd still have exciting hockey [with the red line] if you continue to not allow [obstruction]."
Bylsma's system hinges on speed up the ice. He said he would be willing to alter it in exchange for making the red line "hot" again.
After staying off the ice Monday, Penguins center and captain Sidney Crosby (concussion symptoms, neck injury) skated after practice Tuesday rather than before it. ... While the Penguins had a night off at home, the Ducks played at Minnesota, then planned to fly to Pittsburgh. They were 15-11-5 before Tuesday under former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau. ... The Ducks recalled defenseman Nate Guenin, 29, a former Penguins player from Hopewell. ... Several cable and satellite companies are offering a free preview of NHL Center Ice this week, so those out of the market will be able to see the Anaheim game.
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 First Published February 15, 2012 5:00 AM