Half of the players that make up the Penguins' top two lines missed some or all of practice Sunday at Southpointe but probably will play tonight at Florida.
Center Evgeni Malkin did not skate. Left winger Chris Kunitz left practice after 30 minutes, and center and captain Sidney Crosby followed Kunitz to the locker room five minutes later.
Coach Dan Bylsma said the three are "dealing with some aches and pains, some soreness." He said they are expected to participate in the Penguins' morning skate today and will be further evaluated then.
Crosby is the only one who indicated what his problem might be when he said it was similar to what he has dealt with at times this season and through his career, meaning an achy groin or hip.
"Just a little sore," Crosby said, adding that he left practice mostly as a preventive measure.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who struggled through a slump the first several weeks of the season, sure looked like his confidence was soaring.
During the team's practice-ending shootout competition, he pulled out all of his moves. As skaters were bearing down on him, he did a pirouette or pumped his stick over his head as if it were a barbell or did a couple of pushups or a few jumping jacks -- among other stunts.
Fleury attributed his playfulness in part to the fact that he was full of energy after the team had a day off Saturday, and in part because of a large, vocal crowd at the rink.
"They always cheer when they score goals, so I tried to get them to cheer for the goalie this time," he said.
Fleury is 4-0-1 in his past five decisions after going 1-6 in his first seven.
At an average of 22 minutes, 24 seconds a game, Crosby leads the NHL in ice time among forwards. He said it's no burden.
"I don't feel like over the course of the year I've really played that much more," he said. "If anything, I feel pretty comfortable and it feels pretty normal."
His time is up about half a minute -- or roughly one shift's worth of time -- over his previous two seasons. He figures the extra time has come on the power play, where the Penguins have had among the most chances in the NHL at 96, in various situations such as going on the ice specifically to take a faceoff, and because he's had a few big-minutes games, such as playing 29:45 last Monday against the Rangers and 24:06 Friday against Carolina.
"Do I need to play 25 or 29 minutes every game? No, of course not. I don't think that would be good," Crosby said. "But I think around 22 is where it's been, and that's pretty normal."
When winger Bill Guerin patrolled the ice for the Penguins, some staffers at Southpointe built a small console and attached it to the wall in a small space between Guerin's end locker and the perpendicular wall. Sort of similar to a little nightstand, it had a dual cup holder, a drawer and a large "13" in gold numbers.
Winger Mike Rupp has taken over that stall this season, and the Southpointe crew has changed the "3" on the small piece of furniture to a "7."
Rupp stressed that he didn't ask for it to be refitted with his No. 17.
"I was using it as a shrine [to Guerin]," he said. He keeps bottles of water, tape and the like in the drawer.
Crosby said the players want to do well on the club's annual fathers' trip, with games at Florida and Buffalo, not only because they want to win in front of their dads but for reasons relating to superstition.
"Guys get up for these games, and we want the dads to be able to come back, so we need to make sure we play well," he cracked.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com .