Penguins Notebook: Home games have virtues, but some players enjoy road games

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OTTAWA -- With their first-round playoff series against Ottawa shifting back to Mellon Arena for Game 5 Thursday night, the Penguins admittedly will be happy to be back in familiar surroundings.

Still, as defenseman Mark Eaton pointed out, "As far as how we play, it doesn't matter whether we're at home or on the road."

What's more, some guys genuinely do not mind venturing into a place where they are cast as the villains.

"It's good to be home," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It's good to have the fans on your side.

"But, sometimes, it's fun to play in a hostile environment, with people cheering against you. You want to try to calm them down."

Johnson returns as backup

Penguins goalie Brent Johnson, who did not dress for the previous two games because of illness, assumed his usual spot as Fleury's backup Tuesday night for Game 4 at Scotiabank Place.

Johnson said after the game-day skate that, "I feel good," and that he had started to move down the road to recovery a few days earlier.

"I started feeling better once we got [to Ottawa], pretty much," he said.

"The practice [Monday] was just an optional, not much work, but I cleared [the hurdle] then.

"I felt good out there. No aftershocks, if you will."

Winter Classic update

The Steelers' schedule was released Tuesday and, as expected, their final home game is Thursday night Dec. 23, which would give workers enough time to build an outdoor hockey rink at Heinz Field.

The Penguins are expected to play host to Washington Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic.

Building a taxi squad

The Penguins recalled defenseman Deryk Engelland from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, and he will not be the last Baby Penguin to get the call.

General manager Ray Shero said "we haven't decided on the total number," but that he expects about a half-dozen players to be summoned to serve as a taxi squad during the Penguins' playoff run.

Goalie Brad Thiessen and defenseman Ben Lovejoy were recalled last week to fill spots created by Johnson's illness and defenseman Jordan Leopold's head injury.

Shero declined to say precisely who will be brought up because the Baby Penguins are going through end-of-season meetings with the coaching staff, but wingers Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and goalie John Curry figure to get serious consideration.

Shero also said that, unlike last year, the Penguins are not planning to take all the extra players on the road.

Not much space to work

Penguins center Sidney Crosby has made some highlight individual plays in this series, but not because the Senators are giving him ample room to display his skills.

"I think if I had any less space, there would be no space," Crosby said. "I think you've got to compete for every inch you get out there. I always expect there to be absolutely no space and prepare to work accordingly."

Tip-ins

Because of the playoffs, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik declined an invitation to visit the White House today with other members of the United States silver medal Olympic team and other Olympians. ... The Penguins scratched Engelland, Lovejoy, Thiessen and wingers Ruslan Fedotenko and Eric Godard. ... Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson did not participate in his team's morning skate, which is unusual. He and coach Cory Clouston continued to deny any injury.


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


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