Penguins notebook: Thiessen might get first NHL start today

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Goaltender Brad Thiessen might make his NHL debut for the Penguins today with a start against Columbus at Consol Energy Center.

"If that's the decision they make and [today] is the game that I get, then I'll be ready for it," Thiessen promised after dressing as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup Saturday for the 8-1 win against Tampa Bay.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called it "certainly a possibility," depending on the status of injured backup Brent Johnson.

Bylsma has said that Fleury -- who made his 52nd appearance of the season, 32nd in the past 34 games -- will need some rest before the playoffs.

Thiessen, 25, was recalled on an emergency basis for the 2-0 win Tuesday against the New York Rangers and served as Fleury's backup because Johnson was ill.

Thiessen was recalled again on an emergency basis Friday after Johnson aggravated an undisclosed injury Thursday in practice.

Bylsma characterized Johnson's problem as "not something major, or it's not really something totally new."

Thiessen, who was signed out of Northeastern University in spring 2009 and was on the Penguins taxi squad during its Stanley Cup run, was named the American Hockey League's top goaltender last season, winning 35 games with seven shutouts, a 1.94 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

His numbers haven't been as strong this season -- 20-14-2, 2.88, .885.

"I had a really good start and then kind of struggled a little for a bit," Thiessen said.

"Lately, I've been playing a lot better.

"I think it's been good for me to go through these different situations."

He also has had a front-row seat at the end of the bench the past two games to watch Fleury shut out the Rangers and allow just one goal against the Lightning.

"Anytime you're watching a guy like that, one of the best in the league, there's different things you see that he does in the game, how he reads plays and kind of controls the game back there," Thiessen said.

Orpik's return perfectly timed

As of Friday, defenseman Brooks Orpik was hopeful he would wake up Saturday feeling good enough to take the pregame skate and assess whether he could play after missing the game Tuesday because of an unspecified injury.

Orpik not only returned to the lineup, but also played 19 minutes, 41 seconds and had five blocked shots and a hit.

"The way it played out, I don't think I got hit once [because] we had so much possession of the puck," Orpik said. "It was a good one to come back for."

Orpik, formerly Kris Letang's steady partner, was paired with Zbynek Michalek while Letang played with Paul Martin, a configuration Bylsma began using shortly before Orpik got hurt.

Dupuis 'robs' Staal

Winger Pascal Dupuis was doing his best to join the scoring party with at least three solid chances before he batted in a rebound of a shot by linemate Jordan Staal with 47.6 seconds left.

"Guys were bugging me that I stole [Staal's] hat trick there, that it was going to trickle in," Dupuis said. Staal had two goals.

"But I don't know. I've been missing a couple lately. I'll take this one."

Besides the goal, Dupuis finished with four shots, three hits and two blocked shots.

Sullivan's surge continues

Winger Steve Sullivan had three assists, continuing a strong stretch that Bylsma said dates to the All-Star break a month ago.

Sullivan has nine points in the 12 games since the break and, Bylsma noted, has been strong playing on Staal's line and often against opponents' top lines.

"We don't know exactly where he went for the All-Star break. He hasn't told us," Bylsma said. "We're trying to figure that out."

Tip-ins

Injured Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy skated in the morning. ... Fleury is 13-6-3 in his next start after a shutout, 7-0-2 in his past nine such starts. ... Bylsma is 149-77-24, all with the Penguins. A win today -- or in any of the next six games -- will make him the fourth fastest to 150 all time in the NHL.



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