Penguins Notebook: Battlefield casualty has lost mementos replaced

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Thirty days after Army Sgt. Justin Lubash was seriously wounded and lost his belongings in an attack in Afghanistan, he got a couple of items replaced. With a personal touch.

Lubash, 23, a Munhall native, was a guest at the Penguins' morning skate Thursday at Mellon Arena, and in the locker room afterward coach Dan Bylsma presented him with a new 2009 Stanley Cup banner and center Sidney Crosby gave him a new Crosby jersey. Lubash's had been gifts from relatives that he took with him to Afghanistan.

"When we got hit and I found out my stuff and couple other people's things got destroyed, I was kind of bummed," Lubash, who was awarded a Purple Heart, told Bylsma and Crosby.

Crosby signed the jersey, and the two sat at Crosby's stall and talked. Lubash asked Crosby about lifting the Stanley Cup June 12, just after Lubash arrived in Afghanistan.

"It wasn't heavy," Crosby told him. "Every emotion is running through your mind. You're excited, and you're thinking about everybody who helped you get there. But you're kind of numb.

"I remember the commissioner [Gary Bettman] was talking and we had to pose for a picture. You can't even hear anything. You don't really see anything. You go out and see the Cup, and you see the guys waiting for it. Everyone's pretty giddy. It was pretty neat."

Afterward, Crosby said of Lubash's visit: "I think we realize how people follow us, but that's a pretty amazing story. It's incredible. We're happy that we can return those things. That's the least we can do."

Godard could miss a month

Although the Penguins had a sizable injury list Thursday night, the only long-term problem appears to be that of winger Eric Godard.

Bylsma said Godard, who was hurt Monday against the New York Rangers, is expected to miss four to six weeks because of a groin injury. There is no indication how or whether the team will fill Godard's enforcer role.

Also out were winger Tyler Kennedy and defenseman Alex Goligoski, who have undisclosed injuries and are considered day to day, Bylsma said.

Winger Chris Kunitz, who had been skating on his own, joined the club for the morning skate.

Bylsma said Kunitz, who had surgery to repair an abdominal muscle tear Jan. 6, will be out another one to two weeks.

Road warriors

Players with the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, don't want to stray too far from their phones.

Look at two forwards who played Thursday night:

• Chris Conner had rushed to New York and scored twice in the Penguins' 4-2 win Monday against the Rangers, was sent back to Wilkes-Barre after the game, then got called up again Wednesday afternoon. "It's been pretty crazy, but I'm not complaining," he said.

Nick Johnson was recalled last week and scored in his first NHL game -- a 6-3 loss to Washington -- was sent back down after the game, was recalled to play Sunday against Philadelphia and against the Rangers, was sent back down with Conner, then was called up Thursday afternoon and played against Ottawa.

Lemieux gets his sea legs

Penguins co-owner and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux was on the ice before the morning skate with Michael Saikali, 11, of Ottawa, a Make-A-Wish Foundation participant.

The two set each other up for shots and moved around the ice -- drills Lemieux uses when he coaches his son, Austin, and his Junior Penguins team.

Afterward, the session prompted some cracks about Lemieux coming back as a power-play specialist.

"We joked about that [Wednesday], that possibly it might be time for him to get on a line with [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin on the power play," Bylsma said. "I think he'd be up for the power play."

Lemieux retired for the second and final time four years ago this week.

Tip-ins

The Penguins signed forward Joe Vitale, a seventh-round draft pick in 2005, to a two-year contract extension. In 41 games in his first full season with Wilkes-Barre, he has four goals and 19 assists. ... Ottawa scratched winger Shean Donovan and defenseman Alexandre Picard.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721


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