Orpik being patient in comeback from injury

Sits out Thursday's season opener in Vancouver

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VANCOUVER -- It's in the nature of most high-level athletes to play through pain and rush back from injury when possible.

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik has been there, done that, but now he's taking a different approach as he comes back from his second offseason surgery to repair an abdominal hernia.

"I'm just trying to learn from the past, be patient with it rather than trying to play through it -- which obviously led to other things," Orpik said after participating in the team's morning skate at Rogers Arena.

"Just be patient with it and wait until it clears up."

That might be the smart route, but it's not the easiest because it meant sitting out Thursday's season opener against the Canucks.

Orpik, 31, led the Penguins with 194 hits and blocked 94 shots in 2010-11, but by season's end he was limited by the injury to his right side. He had surgery July 20. He had similar surgery on the left side in the 2010 offseason.

"It's just dealing with certain movements," he said of his latest recovery. "You could play through it if you really wanted and just deal with the pain. Obviously, I ran into trouble doing that in the past, so I just try to be a little smarter, more patient this time."

Orpik was limited throughout training camp but has been practicing with the team since Saturday.

"It's Game One of a long season," coach Dan Bylsma said. "We're not going to rush him or put him in a spot where we think it's going to do any damage long term or make him sit out any longer."

There was some hope Orpik would be ready to play against Vancouver, but he realized after the skate that it wasn't going to happen.

"Still not all the way there," he said. "I was hoping it would be. It feels a lot better than it did. It's just trying to get back in, hopefully, sooner rather than later."

Orpik has been able to work out off the ice and won't need to work himself into game shape when his recovery is complete.

"My conditioning is good," he said. "That's probably always been there."

Even though he has had the same injury repaired on both sides, Orpik wants to forestall any recurrence. That could entail a longer warm-up before he skates.

"I think you've always got to do a little extra now just so it doesn't come back," he said. "You don't want to let it frustrate you. You've just got to be patient with it and realize it's all part of the rehab process."

The surgery was necessary but not a fail-safe.

"They reinforce it and they tell you if you rehab it properly, it's supposed to be stronger than it was even before you were injured," Orpik said. "Now that I'm more aware of it, it's something that if you're disciplined and do what you're supposed to do with it, it probably shouldn't happen again.

"Going through it twice, I hope it doesn't happen again."

Tough morning skate

Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy had a rough morning skate.

While skating backward near one of the nets, he tripped on a teammate's stick and fell, hitting his helmeted head on the ice.

He got up with no problem, but a few minutes later caught a rut with his skate and crashed into the end boards. He was slow getting up that time but remained in the skate.

"That one hurt a little bit," Kennedy said. "I'm just glad I didn't get hurt.

"I was a little dazed. It happens."

Video sessions

As the new dean of discipline for the NHL, Brendan Shanahan issued an explanatory video every time he suspended a player in the preseason.

The Penguins, who did not have a player suspended, have been digesting them. En masse.

"We've all been watching the videos together," Bylsma said. "We've watched every one as a team.

"We've watched every situation. We've talked about them. We've talked about what we thought about the situation the players put themselves in -- both the hittee and the hitter. And we've talked about some of the things to look for in those situations. We've listened to Brendan Shanahan. I think it's been great."

No photo shoots

Penguins center Jordan Staal has been compared favorably with Ryan Kesler of Vancouver. Both are known for their strong two-way play.

But Staal does not want to follow Kesler's lead in his latest venture.

Kesler, who missed the opener because of a hip injury, was one of several athletes who posed nude in a PG-rated feature in ESPN the Magazine.

"I heard about it," Staal said. "I don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon."

Asked who might be the Penguins' best candidate for such a thing, Staal cracked, "That's a good question. Who's got the worst body?"

Ben Lovejoy offered up the guy sitting one stall over.

"If I had to choose a guy that would, A, be willing, and, B, have the body to do it, it would be Paul Martin," Lovejoy said of his fellow defenseman. "Perhaps the editors of ESPN the Magazine will come calling next year now that I've given him a shoutout."

Lovejoy saw Kesler's photo.

"He obviously looked great," Lovejoy said. "He was cut and looked like he certainly works out in the summer, but he's probably going to get ribbed about it more than a bit.

"I guess anytime you can get hockey into the mainstream ESPN media, you take it. He certainly represented the 650 NHL players well.

"Believe it or not, we all look like that."


For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly


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