Penguins Notebook: Bylsma's outlook for Boucher is to get him on the ice soon

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It seemed the ideal spot to get defenseman Philippe Boucher back into the lineup.

It had been five days since he got medical clearance to return from February foot surgery. The team was coming off a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia. And the game last night against Calgary at Mellon Arena was the Penguins' 73rd, meaning there aren't many games left for Boucher to shake off some rust.

But Penguins interim coach Dan Bylsma doesn't look for signs or rely on rituals.

"Not superstitious," Bylsma said yesterday. "I'm not a guy who won't change a lineup after a win or a loss. It's a situation where we have seven good defensemen, and six of them [have been] playing well for a long period of time. Philippe's coming back from an injury. He definitely needs to get in games. Defensemen need to have their timing before the playoffs."

But for last night, Boucher was limited to the pregame skate.

"The plan is to get Philippe in there again for sure a handful of games," Bylsma said.

The Penguins' other healthy scratch was winger Craig Adams.

Iginla praises Malkin

Flames winger, captain and leading scorer Jarome Iginla sees Penguins center Evgeni Malkin as a strong contender for the Hart Trophy as MVP.

"I would think Malkin would have to be right up there," Iginla said of the NHL's leading scorer, who entered the game with 105 points.

"His team had some injury challenges this year and they were out of the playoffs for a while. They've turned it up and they're right back in it. He's led the league right from start to finish."

Iginla, who entered last night sixth in the league with 83 points, deflected any thought that he should be part of the Hart discussion, but offered that Calgary goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff is worthy. Kiprusoff went into the game with an NHL-best 42 wins but wasn't in the top 10 in other categories.

"We haven't been maybe as good in front of him as most years," Iginla said. "He's so much more than numbers -- his competitiveness, the amount of games he plays."

Trade pays off

Calgary coach Mike Keenan describes the trade a month ago that brought 6-foot-2, 200-pound Olli Jokinen from Phoenix as a key move that gave his team the kind of stability down the middle teams covet but few -- the Penguins excluded -- have.

"It helped to have a big centerman, which we didn't have," Keenan said. "It was centerman-by-committee, depending on the needs in the game. I'd be interchanging all the centermen."

Even travel

The Penguins' recent 10-day, five-game road trip doesn't match the Flames' recent seven-game, 12-day journey, which Keenan described as "a little bit tedious and arduous, a lot of sleepless nights with late planes and snowstorms, all those things to deal with."

Teams in the Western Conference typically make longer trips because those teams are spread farther apart. Keenan likes the fact that the Eastern teams are getting more of a taste of the longer trips thanks to scheduling implemented this season that has every team in the East playing every team in the West at least once

"It puts more air miles on us, but it also puts more air miles on the people in the East," he said. "I've been in the East where we would spend three months without leaving the time zone. With our conference, you leave the time zone pretty much every time you move."



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