Penguins notebook: No quick return for top defensemen

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The Penguins will remain without their top four defensemen, at least in the short term.

Kris Letang, the latest to be injured, was placed on the injured-reserve list, and, according to coach, Dan Bylsma likely won't return until after the NHL's Christmas break. He was a late scratch Saturday at Detroit because of an unspecified injury.

Also injured are defensemen Paul Martin (broken leg), Brooks Orpik (concussion) and Rob Scuderi (broken ankle).

Scuderi joined his teammates Monday at a morning skate before a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Consol Energy Center. Like Letang, Scuderi could be back shortly after the holiday break.

"I think I'm pretty far ahead of schedule," said Scuderi, who had a metal plate surgically implanted in his left ankle after he got hurt Oct. 26 in a game at Toronto.

"I had a couple of X-rays recently, and they just don't feel quite ready enough to let me play. I can practice with the team, which is a great step for me, just to get some reps and be around the team, but I'll have to wait probably another eight to 10 days.

"It feels good. It's a little disappointing when you feel so good on the ice but they don't let you do what you really want to do. I understand that that's part of the process. I'm not an expert."

He got hurt on a check by Toronto's David Clarkson, but said Clarkson was not at fault because the break happened on what was "just a strange landing."

Scuderi has been impressed with the defensemen summoned as fill-ins from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League -- the latest being Philip Samuelsson, who made his NHL debut Monday night. But he's perplexed by the amount of injuries.

"I haven't seen it kind of pile up like it has," Scuderi said. "It really speaks to the depth of the organization."

Scuderi hasn't lost his sense of humor during his time out of the lineup.

"You can't say enough about the guys [who have been called up]," he said. "It's, like, next-man-up mentality. I'm kind of waiting for someone to 'Nancy Kerrigan' my foot, the way they've been going."

Bruins' Thornton appeals suspension

 Boston winger Shawn Thornton appealed a 15-game suspension he got for attacking Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik in a Dec. 7 game at TD Garden.

The NHL Players Association announced on its Twitter feed that Thornton had opted for an appeal and said that “on his behalf the NHLPA has notified the NHL.” He had until 4 p.m. Monday to file the appeal.

Thornton’s appeal will be heard by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. No date has been set. If Bettman upholds the suspension, Thornton can appeal it to an independent arbitrator.

The independent-arbitrator process is part of the latest collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and its players. It never has been used.

Earlier this season, Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta appealed a 10-game suspension for a check to the head of Columbus’ Jack Johnson to Bettman, who upheld it. Kaleta did not take the next step and appeal to an independent arbitrator.

In a stoppage in the first period of Boston’s 3-2 win, Thornton pulled Orpik down from behind and punched him. Orpik, who was unconscious at least briefly, left the ice on a stretcher.

Malkin avoids IR

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was not put on IR but missed a game Monday and is considered day-to-day because of an unspecified injury. That's probably something close to a best-case scenario given that he left a game Saturday against Detroit after slamming into the end boards and being unable to put weight on his left leg while being helped off of the Joe Louis Arena ice.

To fill that roster spot, the Penguins called up Harry Zolnierczyk from Wilkes- Barre.

Glass to return soon

Like Scuderi, winger Tanner Glass joined the game-day skate. He is three to five days away from returning from a broken right hand, Bylsma said.

Glass missed his 11th game in a row.

"There's still some work to do, but I feel really good," Glass said. "It's just strengthening now. I think the break is pretty solid. I don't have a splint on or cast, but it's been immobilized for a few weeks, so it's a matter of getting everything back up to snuff so I can trust my hand on the stick. It just feels a little weak and a little unstable."

Engelland hearing a surprise

Bylsma and defenseman Deryk Engelland expressed surprise that Engelland was summoned for an in-person hearing Wednesday with the NHL's department of player safety, which makes him eligible for a suspension of longer than five games.

He is suspended indefinitely pending the outcome from that hearing after he hit Detroit's Justin Abdelkader in the head Saturday.

"I'm trying to get his body," Engelland said of the play. "I don't know if he's poking the puck and jumping around or something, but, as his head comes up, I catch, I think, his shoulder and his head. I'm expecting him to finish a check and I'm trying to protect myself [from] turning away and getting hit and going head-first into the boards."

Engelland understands, though, that the NHL needed to review it because it was a hit to the head, regardless of intent.

"They've been trying to crack down," he said.

"I think they're just trying to limit them."

Tip-ins

Winger James Neal served the fourth game of his five-game NHL suspension. ... The Penguins had no healthy scratches.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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