The Penguins, like most people in and around the NHL, had expected the league to assess a severe punishment to Phoenix winger Raffi Torres for launching himself into Chicago's Marian Hossa and delivering a blow to his head Tuesday night.
At least some, however, apparently did not anticipate anything quite as harsh as the 25-game suspension Torres received Saturday.
"I thought he was going to get a lot," defenseman Deryk Engelland said. "But 25, I probably wouldn't have guessed that. It's a big suspension."
And, the way coach Dan Bylsma views it, it sends a big message.
"The amount of games is a big statement, and I think it will have an effect," Bylsma said. "Not only on Torres and that situation, but I think it will have an effect throughout the league, in terms of a statement about that type of hit, that type of play, not being in our game."
Center Sidney Crosby, who missed nearly 11 months while recovering from a concussion caused by a blow to the head, had a slightly different take, suggesting that the suspension might be aimed more at Torres, a repeat offender, than players in general.
"I think it's more sending a message to him than anything, but I think, hopefully, at this point, guys have got that message," he said. "And if they haven't, maybe this is something that will make them realize this is a serious thing."
The Penguins have had three players suspended during their first-round playoff series against Philadelphia, which reaches Game 6 today. James Neal sat out Game 4 and Arron Asham is sitting out four games for illegal hits. Craig Adams sat out Game 4 because of circumstances surrounding a fight.
Winger Steve Sullivan said the Torres punishment has not clarified things for other players.
"It's still confusing," he said. "[Columbus defenseman James] Wisniewski gets eight games in the preseason. We think that's the standard. I don't think it was called the same exact way throughout the season and the first couple games of the playoffs. And now the standard is set again.
"How many times do we reset the standards? As players, the severity of a punishment like that, if you know it's going to continue, that's the way of dealing with hits like that. It's a tough job for [NHL executive Brendan Shanahan] to do. No hit is exactly the same. He's looking for differences in the hit to make his decisions."
Perhaps the most interesting reaction to the Torres suspension came from Penguins left winger Matt Cooke, who sat out the final 10 games of the 2010-11 regular season and the entire first-round series against Tampa Bay last spring after hitting New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head.
Asked directly about the Torres ruling, Cooke responded, "We have Game 6 tomorrow. That's the most important thing."
Three defensemen -- Matt Niskanen, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin -- did not participate in the Penguins practice Saturday. Martin, who has missed the past two games because of an undisclosed injury, seems virtually certain to sit out Game 6, but the status of the other two is uncertain.
Bylsma would say only that, "there was a handful of guys who stayed off the ice."
Niskanen missed Games 1 and 2 with what is believed to have been a shoulder injury.
Pressed to identify the Flyers player who has been the Penguins' biggest thorn this series, Crosby settled on center Claude Giroux, who leads the series with 11 points.
"He's a good playmaker besides creating things for himself," Crosby said.
Crosby and Giroux have something in common -- their NHL role model.
"Steve Yzerman," Giroux said of the former Detroit star now Tampa Bay's general manager.
"When he won those two Cups, '97, '98, he worked hard. He's a leader on the ice.
"He played hurt. That's playoff hockey.
"He was one of my idols because of the way he played in the playoffs."
Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk had been out since March 1 because of a broken left foot. He eased back into it in Game 5 with no points or shots in 7:31 of ice time.
"It was exciting to get in that playoff atmosphere," he said.
As for how his foot felt the day after, he said, "All things considered, not too bad. This time of year, you want to do everything you can to get in the lineup and contribute."
First Published April 22, 2012 7:00 PM