Penguins Notebook: Kunitz skates in full gear, could return soon

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The Penguins are getting immediate help at forward after trading for winger James Neal, but help from within might not be far off.

Winger Chris Kunitz could be back as soon as Wednesday for a home game against San Jose, coach Dan Bylsma said.

Kunitz missed his seventh game in a row Monday when the Penguins played Washington at Consol Energy Center, but earlier in the day he participated in the morning skate, the first time he skated in full gear and with his teammates.

"No contact or anything. Just trying to move the legs," Kunitz said. "It's nice to be out there, but there's a lot of areas to work on."

Kunitz was scheduled to be evaluated by medical staff Monday night with the hope that a timetable for his return could be firmed, but it appears he should be back before the end of this stretch of five games in seven days. The Penguins have road games Friday at Carolina and Saturday at Toronto.

"Hopefully, by the end of the week. Possibly for San Jose," Bylsma said.

Two other injured forwards, Dustin Jeffrey (leg) and Mark Letestu (knee), were on the ice before the morning skate. Jeffrey is believed to be the closer of the two for returning.

Capitals being cautious

The Capitals aren't disclosing details of the injury to All-Star defenseman Mike Green, who got hit near the right ear Feb. 6 by a shot by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

It sounds a lot like a concussion or something similar, and coach Bruce Boudreau said Washington is subscribing to the same prudent protocol so many other players -- including Penguins center Sidney Crosby -- are following.

"He's actually fine," Boudreau said of Green. "It's being overly cautious. You hear a lot of coaches saying this about a lot of different players. I'm hearing the same thing out of Dallas with [Brad] Richards. I'm hearing the same thing from a lot of teams.

"These things are being so rampant and people are missing so many games that you just want to make sure that you're fully recovered. We've got three days off before the next game, so it doesn't make sense to play him [Monday]. Let's make 100 percent sure that when he's ready, Friday against the Rangers, he's ready."

Ovechkin no headhunter

There was a period of time when Washington star winger Alex Ovechkin seemed to be head-hunting when his team played the Penguins, first with center Evgeni Malkin and later with Crosby.

Ovechkin had this to say when asked if Rule 48, which was enacted last year and cracks down on blind-side hits to the head, should be toughened.

"I don't think everybody wants to hit [opponents] in the head," he said. "Sometimes you're in a situation where you go to make a hit, and the guy turns and you hit their head. But you don't mean to hit their head. If somebody wants to hit [someone in] the head, tell him don't play -- suspend him for a couple years."

Ovechkin followed the last part of his response with a big smile.

Traveling part of game

Penguins forward Tim Wallace is the latest of the boomerang set -- players who have gone back and forth between the Penguins and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League repeatedly as the NHL club's injury situation mounts and fluctuates.

"It's just part of pro hockey, I think," said Wallace, who played his sixth NHL game of the season against Washington.

"I've done it in the past. Guys like Dustin [Jeffrey] are doing it a little more than I have. But there are no complaints here."



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