Penguins Notebook: Johnson lastest forward with an injury


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With the Penguins lately, most news is bad news, considering their streak of injuries, but Friday the reports were mixed.

There was another injury to another forward. Nick Johnson, who has played in the past four games as part of the contingent that has been called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, left the ice during practice at Southpointe.

Coach Dan Bylsma declined to give specifics but said Johnson is doubtful for the game Sunday at Chicago, and, with no other injured players due back imminently and six games in eight days starting Sunday, the Penguins likely will promote another player from the American Hockey League.

Bylsma revealed that Arron Asham, who hasn't played since leaving a Feb. 1 game against the Rangers in New York, has concussion-like symptoms.

"He has been progressing -- he has gone to exercise," Bylsma said. Still, Asham has been downgraded from day to day to being out indefinitely.

In the meantime, winger Chris Kunitz (undisclosed injury) and center Mark Letestu (arthroscopic knee surgery) skated in warm-ups with conditioning coach Mike Kadar at the end of practice. Most of their teammates were still on the ice after an hour-plus workout and gave the two a warm welcome.

"It's good to see progression and just to see the reaction from the guys, get them on the ice, have a little cheer, even though they're out there in their track pants," Bylsma said.

Center Dustin Jeffrey, who is being fitted with a brace for a leg problem, has not resumed skating as Kunitz and Letestu have but might be closest of the three to returning.

There was a sighting of another injured forward. Evgeni Malkin made his way through the locker room in sweats and on crutches after having surgery for torn ligaments in his right knee.

"He's one week into a six-month rehab," Bylsma noted.

Bylsma said there was no update on center Sidney Crosby, who has a concussion.

The other Orpik

The Penguins' raiding of Wilkes-Barre has created an opportunity there for players brought up from Wheeling of the ECHL. One of them is being monitored by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

His younger brother, Andrew, a forward who signed a minor-league contract last summer, had two assists Sunday in a 7-1 win against rival Hershey in his second game since being promoted.

Wilkes-Barre played at Norfolk Friday night.

"He's smart enough to know that sometimes you only get a small window of opportunity to prove yourself," Brooks Orpik said.

The older brother said he hopes the public realizes that he "won't hold a grudge" if Andrew, 24, doesn't develop as quickly as he did and stressed that Andrew isn't getting any extra benefit because of his last name.

"He's a kid who was a walk-on in college [at Boston College, where he won a national championship] and worked for everything he got, so he's just kind of going with it," Brooks Orpik said.

Who is that masked man?

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury started practice with something unusual pulled over his face and under his helmet -- a ski mask with a skeleton design that he found on a biker website.

He said he got it because he wanted to have some fun while keeping warm for the Jan. 1 outdoor Winter Classic.

"I thought it was pretty cool," Fleury said, but that night was warm enough to rain, and he got word that even if the Winter Classic temperatures had cooperated, the NHL didn't want him to wear the frightening face because it wasn't appropriate for a game.

It usually is extra cold at Southpointe, so he decided to don it at the practice facility.

He discovered another problem.

"It was tough to breathe," said Fleury, who ditched the ski mask fairly early during the session.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com .


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