Western Canada a family special for Penguins

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CALGARY, Alberta -- An eight-hour drive? That's nothing, Tanner Glass said.

The Penguins winger had family members drive that far from his native Saskatchewan to Edmonton to visit with him and attend a game Friday there, then drive Saturday to Calgary for another game, and planned another eight-hour trip home.

"It's the plains," Glass said with a grin and a shrug of the distance.

After all, the Penguins haven't made these trips to western Canada all that often. It used to be once every two or three years, depending on the NHL scheduling, and a season ago there were no inter-conference games because of a lockout-shortened season.

Several Penguins have roots in western Canada, and they welcome the fact that in the current setup, every team will play in every other NHL city every season.

The Penguins concluded this season's three-game swing through western Canada with a game late Saturday night against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome after games in Edmonton and Vancouver.

Glass, a former Canucks player, also visited with friends in Vancouver.

At a Penguins practice Thursday in Edmonton, several youngsters related to defenseman Deryk Engelland had a blast getting into a water fight with Glass, who giggled as much as the children did.

"They enjoyed that," said Engelland, who grew up in and around Edmonton before moving to British Columbia when he was in seventh grade.

Engelland got to visit with family and friends in all three stops on the trip. He went to relatives' in Leduc, Alberta, Wednesday on a Penguins day off.

"They cooked a big nice dinner for us," Engelland said. "Just kind of hung out, played some floor hockey with the boys and tried to wrestle with them all day."

The rest of the Penguins got some home cooking the next day, as relatives of Calgary native Mike Kadar, the team strength and conditioning coach, set out a spread of Hungarian fare for the players Thursday after practice.

Hockey's famous Sutter clan is from Red Deer, Alberta, so Penguins center Brandon Sutter got to stop by home.

Winger Chris Kunitz's parents live in Calgary but were in Pittsburgh for the holidays and got stuck there most of the week because of widespread weather-related flight cancellations.

They made it out, and Kunitz looked forward to seeing them Saturday as well as other relatives.

"I've got some aunties and uncles and cousins, a bunch of people that will be around that I haven't seen in a while," he said.

"It's always nice to see family and friends and people you haven't seen in a little bit. It's always fun to be able to share those old memories of maybe growing up and playing, run into an old coach or people who used to take you on trips for travel [hockey]."

Winger Craig Adams grew up in Calgary, and the previous time the Penguins played there, his parents were away on a trip. This time, they caught up with him in Vancouver, and he planned to see others in Calgary.

The same sort of thing happens when the Penguins play in, say, Montreal or Toronto, which also are areas that produce a lot of NHL players, but those trips are more frequent for Eastern Conference teams.

"The trips [to western Canada] are a lot fewer, but it makes it more special," Adams said. "It's great. You get to come home and see family and friends."

Injury update

While the Penguins have been away, some of their injured players have been in Pittsburgh working to get back in the lineup.

Defenseman Paul Martin (broken leg) and forward Jayson Megna (unspecified injury) are skating. Winger Beau Bennett (hand/wrist surgery) had his cast removed and "is working out," but it's unclear when he might resume skating, coach Dan Bylsma said.

It's not known whether those or other injured players might be close to returning to practice when the Penguins return.

"We won't have an update on any of them in terms of what their return to practice and/or game is until we get back," Bylsma said.

Winger Pascal Dupuis has not yet had surgery on his right knee. He has a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The team's other injured players are forwards Chris Conner (broken hand), Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle) and Chuck Kobasew (unspecified injury) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clot/blood-thinners).

Tip-ins

Boston winger Shawn Thornton returned to the Bruins lineup Saturday after serving a 15-game suspension for an after-whistle attack on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik that left Orpik with a concussion. Orpik declined comment on Thornton's return, saying he had addressed the matter previously to his satisfaction. ... After playing in Edmonton and traveling Friday night, the Penguins canceled their game-day skate. ... The Penguins have a scheduled day off today.


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

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