Penguins Notebook: Kunitz receives 2-year contract extension

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Left winger Chris Kunitz could have waited until next summer to test the free-agent market, maybe earn himself a raise.

Instead, he signed a two-year extension with the Penguins after negotiations that lasted only about two weeks.

"We like it here," Kunitz said Thursday. "We like the coaching staff. We like the players.

"When you're comfortable as a hockey player, it makes it a lot easier to do your job."

His extension runs through 2013-14 and carries a salary cap hit of $3.75 million per season -- the same hit he has now.

A salary bump wasn't at the top of Kunitz's wish list.

"We have the young guys [whose contracts are] coming up," he said. "They need their contracts, too. I wanted to get it done, out of the way, and concentrate on hockey.

"It's a great organization to be a part of. This team is going to have many chances to win the Stanley Cup with the young core guys they have here. It's an exceptional place to play."

Kunitz, 32, had one assist in four games before the Penguins met Washington at Consol Energy Center. Overall with the Penguins going into that game, in 140 regular-season games, he had 43 goals, 99 points, with 12 power-play goals, two short-handed goals and a plus-minus rating of plus-25. He has six goals, 26 points in 43 postseason contests.

He has played primarily on the top line with center Sidney Crosby, and his blend of offense and physical play dovetailed with coach Dan Bylsma's system immediately after he was acquired from Anaheim in a February 2009 trade. He won a Cup with the Penguins four months after joining them.

"He's got a net-front presence, a physicality," Bylsma said. "There's speed to his game, straight lines. A lot of it is how we want to play the game. He adds a part to the way we want to play.

"The other part to Chris' game that has grown in significance since he's been here is his leadership in our room and leadership on the bench."

Malkin returns

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who returned to the lineup against the Capitals, said he had been experiencing soreness in his right knee.

Malkin had surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament in that knee in February. Everything went smoothly until a game Saturday at Calgary.

"After the second period, my knee was a little bit tired," Malkin said. "I tried to skate, but I couldn't push. I didn't know why. Nothing was wrong before the game. It just got a little bit sore, and I didn't feel comfortable."

He played very sparingly in the third period of that game and was pulled out of the lineup for the two subsequent games.

Malkin described the soreness as being in the area of the incision and scar.

At the game-day skate, Malkin worked with regular linemates Steve Sullivan and James Neal and with the top power-play unit.

He said afterward that the knee felt better, but he and Bylsma said it was prudent to see if soreness returned in the day or the pregame warm-up before deciding whether he could play against the Capitals.

Tip ins

The Penguins held a moment of silence for Lower Burrell police officer Derek Kotecki, who was killed Wednesday night in the line of duty. ... The Penguins healthy scratches were center Mark Letestu and winger Steve MacIntyre. ... Defenseman Brooks Orpik (abdominal surgery) skated on his own. "He's feeling better and continues to improve," Bylsma said. ... The game was the 300th in the NHL for defenseman Matt Niskanen. ... Forward Dustin Jeffrey (knee) continues to practice with contact.


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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