The NHL lockout has wiped out training camp and early games in the 2012-13 season, but the Post-Gazette will help you catch up with the Penguins with an occasional Q&A. Today, we check in with Chris Kunitz, who has spent most of his Penguins career -- dating to a February 2009 trade with Anaheim -- as the left winger for either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Kunitz, 33, spent the 2004-05 season with Anaheim's minor- league club in Cincinnati as the NHL season was wiped out by a lockout. This time, he's a regular skating with teammates at Southpointe four days a week.
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Question: Can you talk about the previous lockout and playing in the American Hockey League that season?
Answer: I had just played my first 21 games [in the NHL] the year before. [That lockout] was something that you were a part of, but not necessarily understanding what was going on until you started playing again. I later became a player [union] rep coming out of that. [Playing in the AHL] probably did help me. The quality of play was a little better because of the young guys who [otherwise] were going to play in the NHL. That team in Cincinnati, I think 20 guys ended up playing in the NHL. It was beneficial because you were just learning the game, and maybe you weren't thrown into it so quickly.
Q: As a player over 30 this time, is the clock ticking a little more as the lockout drags on?
A: It makes it tough. You get to champing at the bit. But you understand. I benefited from the last lockout, and now you want to help evolve the game for the guys coming in [to the league]. You want your fair take.
Q: You've been practicing mostly on a line with Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, a line that the Penguins have used a lot when Crosby has been healthy. Would you like to see the three of you stay together whenever the Penguins play again, even though you were primarily on Evgeni Malkin's line last season?
A: It's a lot of fun playing with Sid, and [Dupuis], too. We've had some success when we have gotten a chance to play together. We're familiar with each other, and it might be a benefit if that's the combination [the Penguins use]. But I try not to change my game to play with either one of these All-Star, elite centers.
Q: Can you compare Crosby and Malkin as centers?
A: Oh, man. [Malkin] has that unexpected movement up the ice, that skill to create things in a different sense. Sid has that power, nose for the net, can play with both sides of his stick. They create the same awe factor. They get to the same parts on the ice, but just in different ways. You can't compare their styles, but the elite talent and vision they have for places on the ice and where they are is very similar. I'll bet if you copied some tapes, they'd end up in the same spot the majority of the time.
Q: What are you doing in your spare time during the lockout?
A: I get to spend a lot of time with the kids -- swimming lessons, karate, soccer, a little bit of hockey, things like that. Just being home, cooking dinner, spending time with the family that you don't usually get to see. It's a lot of fun to be there every day.
Q: What's your favorite meal?
A: I enjoy the Thanksgiving [spread]. A lot to choose from, a lot of things you can pick at. Growing up [in western Canada], Thanksgiving was relatively the same [as American Thanksgiving]. Other than that, maybe some things you can get at restaurants that you can't get at home -- fresh pastas and things like that -- are pretty tasty.
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 or Twitter: @pgshelly. First Published November 23, 2012 5:15 AM