Penguins' Picard ready to make debut in L.A. tonight

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Alexandre Picard doesn't know much about the Los Angeles Kings.

"I think the last time I played against them was with Philly when I first started in the NHL," he said Friday.

Picard is familiar with what the Penguins want from their defensemen, though, and that was what matters most to him as he prepared to make his debut with them tonight against the Kings at Staples Center.

"There might be a little period of adjustment at the start of the game, but I've got experience," he said after practice Friday at HP Pavilion. "I've played in this league before. I'm going to be ready."

Picard, 26, was summoned from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to join the Penguins on the West Coast, and that move paid off when defenseman Ben Lovejoy left the 4-3 shootout loss Thursday against San Jose with a broken left wrist.

Picard was signed in the offseason. He has 236 games of NHL experience, but an injury in training camp took him out of the running to make the club for the start of the season.

Coach Dan Bylsma said the Penguins became familiar with Picard when he played for Montreal and Ottawa.

"He's a guy who has a heavy shot and can be used on the power play," Bylsma said.

Another new defenseman

Picard might not be the only defenseman making his first Penguins appearance tonight. The team recalled defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, but it's unclear whether he will serve as insurance or fill in for yet another injured defenseman.

Defensemen Matt Niskanen, Kris Letang and Paul Martin, center Evgeni Malkin and winger Matt Cooke took "maintenance days" Friday and did not practice. Bylsma said four of them are expected to play tonight while one has a chance of missing the game.

He did not specify who fit into which category, but Bortuzzo's recall could point to Niskanen, Letang or Martin being hurt. Niskanen left the game Thursday after blocking a shot but later returned.

Meanwhile, center Jordan Staal practiced and said there's not much difference in his status. He has missed the past two games because of an unspecified left leg injury.

"It felt good again," he said. "Same stuff -- see how it feels [today], and we'll go from there."

Staal is weighing his desire to play against the fact that after tonight the Penguins don't play until Friday, which would give him a long layoff.

"We do have some time here where we don't play as many games as we have been," Staal said. "You want to make sure your body is feeling good."

Engelland know his niche

Deryk Engelland could not recall for sure if he has had a so-called Gordie Howe hat trick, although he knows it has not happened in the NHL. But he came close Thursday.

He got the hardest part out of the way first with a goal and then fought San Jose's Ryane Clowe, but he didn't get an assist.

"It would have been nice, but it's not really too big a deal," Engelland said.

Engelland, a physical defenseman who has developed into a strong positional player with the ability to pitch in on offense, has twice as many fights (two) as goals (one) this season. He doesn't see much of a competition in terms of which he will have more of in a given season.

"Oh, fights. Every year," he said. "I'm not out there to score goals. When I do get one, it's a bonus, and I'll take it."

Tip-ins

Winger Tyler Kennedy (concussion) and defenseman Zbynek Michalek (broken finger) skated before practice with conditioning coach Mike Kadar, and Kennedy also took part in the practice. ... Bylsma said there will be a better idea of a timetable for Lovejoy's absence after he is further evaluated in Pittsburgh. ... Winger Tom Kuhnhackl, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, was sent this week from Windsor to Niagara in an Ontario Hockey League trade.



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