Asham's path to Penguins lineup no longer blocked

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Arron Asham of the Penguins has blocked five shots in 37 games this season.

It might be a while before he chalks up No. 6.

Asham stopped a puck with his left knee in the Penguins' 3-1 loss Dec. 31 at New Jersey and sat out the next two games because of it.

Asham plans to be back in uniform when Ottawa visits Consol Energy Center tonight, but won't necessarily be putting his body in front of a lot of pucks.

"I don't block too many shots," he said after practice Monday. "This one got me in a pretty tender spot. My leg ballooned up pretty good. Everything's feeling great right now and as far as I know, if I can crack the lineup, I'm in [Tuesday]."

Cracking the lineup won't be an issue, given the bloated injury list.

And it's possible Asham won't be the only one to do it this evening.

Forward Dustin Jeffrey, who has been limited to six appearances this season because of the lingering effects of knee surgery last winter, could play against the Senators, although that isn't a certainty.

Although coach Dan Bylsma did not commit to dressing Jeffrey tonight, he said, "we're not too far away" from seeing him in a game.

Jeffrey said he has skated with assistant coach Tony Granato after practices of late "to try to get myself back into game shape and ready to play minutes."

Even if Asham and Jeffrey return, the Penguins continue to lose players faster than they get them back.

Center Jordan Staal (knee) and winger James Neal (broken foot) were injured over the weekend, forward Craig Adams aggravated a knee injury in practice Sunday and defenseman Paul Martin missed Monday's practice because of illness.

Of those four, only Martin is a candidate to play against Ottawa.

Tangradi promoted

Neal's injury prompted the Penguins to recall left winger Eric Tangradi from Wilkes-Barre.

This is Tangradi's third stint with the Penguins this season; he does not have a point in four games.

He has fared considerably better with the Baby Penguins, though, putting up a team-high 14 goals and ranking second in points with 25.

Tangradi, 22, had points in four of his five most recent games in the American Hockey League and has, at times, been the physical force the Penguins want -- and need -- him to be.

"I'm getting a ton of minutes down there, and I've really found the offensive part of my game," he said. "I'm getting to the net front, getting a lot of greasy goals down there.

"Consistency is something that's come along the way, as well. I definitely feel pretty comfortable and confident with the way my game has been. Now, it's time to translate it to the NHL level and try to [have] an impact."

Bylsma said that "when he plays his game, he's a net-front guy. He's around the cage, down low, holding the puck and that's where he's had his success."

The spate of injuries is the reason Tangradi is getting another chance to prove himself at this level now, but he isn't inclined to quibble about the details of his promotion.

"When you're down there, you're looking for any opportunity that you can get," he said. "Injuries are an awful thing for a team, but when you can get a chance to put the sweater on and get another opportunity, another crack at it, you're definitely excited."

Letang skating hard

Defenseman Kris Letang, who hasn't played since Nov. 26 because of a concussion, worked out on the ice at Consol Energy Center with conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice Monday.

There is no word on when the Penguins hope to have Letang back in uniform, but he was in full equipment and skated hard during puck-handling drills.

Letang was injured on a blindside hit to the head by Montreal's Max Pacioretty, who served a three-game suspension for delivering that blow, which also broke Letang's nose.

Tip-ins

The Penguins' game Jan. 22 against Washington will be televised nationally by NBC and will start at 12:38 p.m. It had been scheduled for 3:08 p.m. ... Don't count on an early end to the evening. Ottawa has gone to overtime six times in its past nine games.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @molinaripg .


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