Penguins Notebook: Mr. Versatility, Fedotenko, expands his range again


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DETROIT -- Penguins winger Ruslan Fedotenko has had a pretty good playoff run, and management figures to make a serious effort to re-sign him this summer.

Not only because he has a history of playing well in high-stakes games, but because he can be used in a variety of roles and positions. He has drawn top-six duty lately, working on Evgeni Malkin's left side, but has filled in on the fourth line at times this season, too.

And during the game-day skate at Joe Louis Arena yesterday, just hours before the Penguins met Detroit in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, Fedotenko showed that he is more versatile than most people had realized by playing defense in a penalty-killing drill.

Fedotenko assumed a spot normally handled by Brooks Orpik -- "He's been begging me for two weeks," Orpik said -- against the No. 2 power-play unit and didn't look bad.

"[Orpik] just asked if I wanted to do it today, so I just felt like, 'Yeah,' " Fedotenko said. "I don't mind. I don't mind at all. He knows I like to battle down low."

And it turns out that it wasn't the first time Fedotenko has been on that side of some confrontations deep in the defensive zone, although it hasn't happened much lately.

"When I was a kid, I started off as a defenseman, so I don't mind playing [there]," he said. "But I'm sure I'd need a little work on my backward skating just because I don't do it much."

Consequently, Fedotenko won't be approaching coach Dan Bylsma about a position change anytime soon, but, if the Penguins find themselves shy a body on the blue line at some point, perhaps he will be asked to fill the void.

"We have plenty of good defensemen right now, so I don't have to try to switch positions to do that," Fedotenko said. "But, if the time comes and if somebody needs to be put there, I feel like I'll be ready."

And it might not stop there.

"I've played center before and I've played both wings," Fedotenko said. "I feel like I could play anywhere. Even goalie."

Penalty-killing success

Good penalty-killing is part of the reason the Penguins were tied, 2-2, with Detroit going into Game 5.

Despite having some of the game's most imposing personnel, Detroit scored on just one of nine chances with the extra man over the first four games of the final.

"We just try to put pressure on them, give them as little time as possible," said Max Talbot, a regular on the shorthanded unit. "I think we've been doing it pretty well. We're going to keep doing it, and sacrifice our bodies to block some shots."

The hits keep coming

No defenseman in the league has been credited with as many hits in these playoffs as Orpik.

Not even close.

Orpik went into Game 5 with 93 -- that's 25 more than Chicago's Brent Seabrook, the No. 2 defenseman, and only 10 fewer than Detroit forward Darren Helm, the overall leader -- and more than a few of those have loosened opponents' dental fillings.

"I think a lot of teams are looking for that element in their defensive corps," Bylsma said. "A guy who can skate well and punish the other team's skilled players in the offensive zone, and he does that repeatedly. He's a physical presence every night.

"Guys know when he's out there, and I think that as his game has improved last year and this year with his positioning and being patient, letting the game come to him, [he's] still getting those hits and being a factor that way.

"He [combines] that physical element with a guy who can skate with the best the opposition has to offer. That's a huge asset."

Which is pretty much how Orpik feels about competing against world-class forwards in practice every day.

"It's no fun," he said. "I think it makes our defensemen a lot better players, playing against guys like [Sidney] Crosby and Evgeni [Malkin]."




Dave Molinari can be reached at dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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