BOSTON -- Chris Kunitz's comeback has been delayed, at least for a few days.
The Penguins had hoped he would return from an undisclosed injury this weekend, but he was not in uniform when they faced Boston Saturday night at TD Garden.
"His response to his injury, with an [increased] workload isn't where it needs to be to play without fear of hurting the injury further," coach Dan Bylsma said.
Kunitz, who has sat out 13 consecutive games, could play when Buffalo visits Consol Energy Center Tuesday.
"Let's hope so," Bylsma said.
Kunitz had five goals in the 10 games before he was injured and still ranks second on the team with 18. Only Sidney Crosby, who has not played in more than two months because of a concussion, has more, 32.
Boston made some history last spring and has lived to tell about it.
The Bruins became just the third team in NHL history -- and the first since the 1975 Penguins -- to lose a best-of-seven playoff series after winning the first three games when they collapsed against Philadelphia in the second round.
Losing that way obviously was traumatic, but there doesn't seem to have been a carryover, because the Bruins were fourth in the overall standings before the games Saturday and are a very real threat to finish first in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire league.
"We tried to focus on the new season and leave everything behind and have a fresh start," Boston captain Zdeno Chara said. "It's sports. Sometimes, crazy things like that happen."
Perhaps, but that didn't make it any easier to live with at the time.
"It was hard to swallow, for sure," Chara said. "When you lose a series after being up, 3-0, it's devastating. We all felt we had a much better team than [one that would be eliminated in the] second round.
"But you have to put it behind you and move on. We feel we have unfinished business."
Bruins right winger Mark Recchi appeared in his 1,536th NHL game Saturday night, giving him sole possession of sixth place on the NHL's all-time list.
He is on pace to surpass Dave Andreychuk and Chris Chelios before the end of this season.
Whether he will try to move farther up the list before retiring remains to be seen because Recchi has not committed to playing beyond this spring.
Then again, he hasn't ruled it out. And Boston coach Claude Julien said Saturday that Recchi continues to be effective and productive at age 43.
"He's been pretty consistent this year," Julien said. "There are certain games when you're going to see him being a little bit tired, and there's no hiding that fact. But a lot of times when that happens, the rest of our team is tired, too.
"Whenever he's kind of slowed down a little bit, we've kind of tapered his ice time. The one thing we want to make sure is that he's firing on all cylinders once the playoffs come around."
Guys in the minor leagues never know when they're going to get the call to report to the NHL. Unless they happen to be Matt Bartkowski.
Bartkowski, a Mt. Lebanon native, can pretty much assume at this point in his career that, if the Bruins are playing the Penguins, he'll be there.
He was summoned from Boston's minor league team in Providence Friday and appeared in his third NHL game Saturday night.
All three have been against the Penguins.
"It's ironic," Bartkowski said. "It's getting funny."
There still is no public explanation for why defenseman Kris Letang did not have his sweater tied down when he fought New Jersey's Travis Zajac Friday, an oversight that led to Letang getting a game misconduct. "We're not going to go there," Bylsma said. "We had a discussion." ... The automatic 10-game suspension right winger Eric Godard received for leaving the bench during an altercation when the Penguins played on Long Island Feb. 11 ended Saturday night.
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published March 6, 2011 5:00 AM