Penguins Notebook: No conspiracy, says Armstrong

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Penguins winger Colby Armstrong wanted to hear nothing of conspiracy theories surrounding the sprained right knee that kept him out of the team's two weekend games.

He said the injury was real and he wasn't dodging the rematch Sunday in Montreal, where he might have been targeted after he leveled Canadiens captain Saku Koivu in the game Thursday night at Mellon Arena.

"Yeah, well, that's ridiculous," Armstrong said yesterday after the morning skate. "This is not freaking WWE wrestling. It's ridiculous."

Armstrong said there is no situation that would make him want to miss games.

"No, I never would," he said. "I didn't want to miss any of the games this weekend. They were big games."

Armstrong returned to the lineup last night against Nashville and was back in his regular spot on a line with center Maxime Talbot and Erik Christensen.

"We had an MRI done, and the MRI didn't look so good, so [sitting out two games] was just precautionary," he said. "It feels good now."

Another task for Shero

Penguins general manager Ray Shero is part of a newly formed National Team Management Advisory Group that will assist USA Hockey in the selection of men's national teams, starting with the world championships in the spring in Russia and possibly eventually including the 2010 Olympic squad.

The four-man group is comprised of NHL GMs -- Shero, David Poile of Nashville, Brian Burke of Anaheim and Don Waddell of Atlanta. Previously, one person has been in charge of filling out the roster.

"When they asked me to be involved, I was flattered," Shero said. "I'm really looking forward to being part of it and contributing. Hopefully, we'll help get USA Hockey going in a good direction."

To rest or not to rest

Armstrong wasn't the only Penguins player who showed up at Mellon Arena and skated Monday even though practice that day was canceled.

"Some came in," said coach Michel Therrien, who has a hard time getting a lot of his players to take days off.

Asked if he was one of those who skated Monday, NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby stroked his chin, looked up at the ceiling and smiled.

"Yeah, I came in," he said, adding that he donned his skates to join some teammates' children whose school was canceled because of the frigid weather.

Therrien some days takes a harder stance about players resting.

"Early in the season, we needed to be on the ice," he said. "We needed to work on different aspects. This time of the year, the guys know how to play and what's important. With so many games, we've got to manage the energy of the players."

Crosby knows his coach is right, particularly with eight of the Penguins' next 11 games on the road and a crowded slate of 17 games in March, but he also feels better if he skates every day.

"You need that rest," he said. "This is probably the toughest part we're going to see, the next couple months.

"I like to be out there, too, even if it's 15, 20 minutes. I like to go out there and feel the puck, have my skates underneath me. At the same time, I think mentally it's always good to get away for a day. That's where the coaches come in."

Sounds like a Penguins fan

Although Eastern and Western conference teams only play each other once a season, if that, Nashville coach Barry Trotz had seen the Penguins a good bit before their game last night, and not just in preparation for their lone meeting..

"They're a hard team not to watch because they have the exciting players like Crosby, [Jordan] Staal, [Evgeni] Malkin," Trotz said. "They play a very up-tempo game. They've added a lot of character.

"For years, I think Pittsburgh relied a lot on just pure skill. That doesn't get you all the way that you want to get to. I think they've got a good balance of some hard-working, hard-nosed type players, and the gifted skill guys they do have."

Slap shots

The Penguins scratched forward Chris Thorburn from the lineup last night. ... The Predators scratched defenseman Shea Weber (sore jaw) and forwards Scottie Upshall and Josef Vasicek. They also were without penalty-minutes leader Jordin Tootoo, who has a sore hip and was put on injured reserve. ... Players will serve as waiters at the Penguins at Your Service charity dinner Monday at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Contact the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 412-321-4422.


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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