Penguins Notebook: Health contributes to team's success

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PHILADELPHIA -- There are quite a few reasons the Penguins have won 10 of their first 11 games in the playoffs, a feat matched only by seven other clubs in NHL history.

Sensational goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury, to be sure. Big-time performances by elite talents such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and regular contributions from the third and fourth lines. Strong five-man work in their own end, and consistently good decision-making and execution by the defensemen.

It also helps that they've been able to keep their lineup intact; the Penguins have lost just 18 man-games to injury in the first two-plus rounds.

"I don't know if it's luck," center Max Talbot said. "But guys have been healthy, and that's a huge part of our success."

Defenseman Mark Eaton, who hasn't played since Dec. 23 because of a knee injury, has accounted for 11 of those 18 man-games, left winger Gary Roberts missed four because of a groin injury, and Talbot sat out three with a broken right foot.

The Penguins are averaging 1.62 man-games lost in the playoffs, down from 3.43 in the regular season.

"We had our share of injuries during the year," left winger Jarkko Ruutu said. "We're lucky to be healthy now. If something happens, we have to deal with it.

"If you look at the Cup winners the past few years, there haven't been too many injuries, and that's a big part of it. You want to have your best lineup out there every night."

The Penguins have, for the most part, been able to do that so far. They also understand that good fortune has contributed to that -- and that such a variable can change without warning.

"A lot of it's just luck," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Times when I've broken my foot, there have been times when it's been hit 10 times harder and not broken it."

A second chance

General manager Ray Shero said Penguins minor-leaguer Paul Bissonnette injured a knee in the final game of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's second-round series against Philadelphia and "will be out for a little bit."

That's fresh information, but the real news is not that Bissonnette is injured, but that the Penguins genuinely care about it.

In the fall, Bissonnette -- whose professional resume was splotched with lackluster performances and off-ice problems -- couldn't even get an invitation to training camp, and was assigned directly to the Penguins' ECHL affiliate in Wheeling, W.Va.

Shero said that Bissonnette, who has worked on the wing as well as defense, "absolutely" has salvaged his career with the organization and that "he's certainly back on the radar."

The key, he said, was how Bissonnette reacted after being sent to the Nailers, which widely was perceived as punctuation at the end of his time with this organization. He earned a promotion to Wilkes-Barre, though, and made a highly favorable impression there, in every regard.

"We gave him a chance in Wilkes-Barre and, to his credit, he did a great job, on and off the ice," Shero said. "He continues to do a good job. He's a very good team guy."

Bissonnette will be a restricted free agent this summer and Shero said that unless something changes at the team's end-of-the-year personnel meetings the Penguins will try to re-sign him.

Slap shots

Fourteen players, including Crosby, went on the ice for the Penguins' optional practice at Mellon Arena yesterday. ... Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, on Malkin's ill-considered cross-ice pass that made a short-handed goal by Mike Richards late in the second period of Game 2 possible: "I don't think that was the right play, obviously. Especially when the guy had a full [head of] steam going the other way."



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