Penguins Notebook: Hall, Roberts eye return

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NEW YORK -- Adam Hall should be able to rejoin the Penguins' lineup within a few days.

Coach Michel Therrien won't rule out Gary Roberts getting medical clearance to return soon, either.

But that doesn't guarantee either will make it into a game before the regular season ends Sunday.

Hall, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery and hasn't played since Jan. 19, "should be ready this week," Therrien said yesterday. He would not guarantee Hall game action, however.

"This is something we're thinking about," Therrien said. "When he's ready, are we going to play him, or stay with the same lineup? That's a decision we have to make."

Therrien and his staff face the same question with Roberts, who got a broken leg and high ankle sprain when Buffalo's Tim Connolly fell on him Dec. 29.

Roberts did not accompany the Penguins for their game against the New York Rangers last night at Mellon Arena, but did skate in Pittsburgh with conditioning coach Mike Kadar.

Therrien said he is "not quite sure yet" about Roberts' prognosis, but did not rule him out of the playoffs because "you never know."

"We're trying everything we can to help him, to make sure that he's ready," Therrien said. "He brings leadership, there's no doubt.

"This is a situation [where] we'll see his conditioning, see how he's reacting at practice, and go from there."

Whitney back on defense

Ryan Whitney, who spent the previous three games in exile on left wing, was back on the Penguins' defense last night.

Rookie Kris Letang was scratched to make room on the blue line for Whitney, who was scheduled to work alongside Darryl Sydor.

"He's part of our top six [defensemen]," Therrien said. "I wanted to see how he was going to react, and I liked his attitude yesterday. I liked the way he played [during a 3-1 victory against the Rangers]. It was time to give him a shot."

While Letang became the odd-man out when Whitney went back on defense, left winger Jeff Taffe got his lineup spot back once Whitney was removed from the mix up front.

He acknowledged being "really happy" about regaining his place in the lineup, but insisted he didn't feel as if he had been caught in the crossfire of Therrien's displeasure with Whitney.

"You can't say that, really," Taffe said. "[Whitney] is a great player, and anytime you can have him in the lineup, it's going to benefit our team.

"We have a lot of guys. I think it will be this way throughout the playoffs, too. I'm just happy to get in a game when I can, and try to do something."

Fleury still the man in net

Last night's game seemed like a natural opportunity -- perhaps the final one of the regular season -- for Therrien to get backup goalie Ty Conklin a start, but he opted to stick with Marc-Andre Fleury.

Conklin clearly wouldn't have minded the work, but believes that what a goalie does with the playing time he receives, not how often he gets some, is what matters most in keeping him sharp.

"Playing well when you play is what helps," he said.

As for how much work a goalie must get to keep a reasonable edge on his game, well, Conklin believes there is no unwavering formula. And that, regardless of the circumstances, it's the goalie's responsibility to do whatever is necessary to stay on top of his game.

"It's different for everybody," he said. "I've been in this situation plenty where I was the backup goalie, and you just do what you can, practice to stay sharp."

Slap shots

Jeff Hannan, a 19-year-old center and son of former Penguins forward Dave Hannan, plays for the New Hampshire Monarchs, who won the Junior A Tier III national championship over the weekend. Hannan is an alum of the Pittsburgh Hornets program. ... The Penguins will play their final regular-season home game at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow against Philadelphia.



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