Penguins notebook: Zolnierczyk gets the call to fill injured Bennett's spot in lineup


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Harry Zolnierczyk was chilling on his couch Monday, a welcome day off, when he got something more welcome -- a call saying the Penguins were summoning him from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

"Great phone call," said the winger, who was in the lineup Tuesday against Edmonton at Consol Energy Center because Beau Bennett was out due to an unspecified injury.

Zolnierczyk, 26, was signed as a free agent in the offseason and was one of the final cuts at training camp.

He had three goals in as many games for Wilkes-Barre, but that wasn't the only thing that earned him the first call-up this season.

"We saw in training camp a little bit of what he brings -- the speed with which he plays, getting to the net, forechecking," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Bylsma indicated he wanted to keep the fourth line of Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale and Craig Adams intact.

Zolnierczyk, who played right wing on the third line Tuesday night with center Brandon Sutter and Dustin Jeffrey, also has a physical element to his game.

"If the opportunity is there to get on the body and finish some checks,

"It will be something to get on, and the opportunity to score goals will be the same," Zolnierczyk said.

Chuck Kobasew moved from the third line up to Bennett's spot alongside Evgeni Malkin on the second line.

Bennett did not participate in the morning skate.

He is considered day-to-day. Zolnierczyk could remain on the NHL roster if Bennett misses more games.

To make room for Zolnierczyk on the roster, the Penguins placed right winger James Neal on long-term injured reserve, retroactive to the regular-season opener. Neal left that game in the first period because of an undisclosed injury and has been listed as week-to-week.

Under long-term IR rules, Neal can't return before an Oct. 28 home game against Carolina.

He has not returned to practice.

Full practice next for Letang

Defenseman Kris Letang apparently will attempt to go through a full practice with his teammates today, something Bylsma called "the next progression" in Letang's recovery from what is believed to be a knee injury.

Letang was allowed to participate in the first half-hour of practice Monday. Then, he skated hard through drills Tuesday with conditioning coach Mike Kadar before joining the team for its game-day skate.

With Letang out, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was the Penguins' only healthy scratch against the Oilers.

Letang has been taking some contact this week.

"It was a good first test," he said. "I had some discomfort, but we can work with it."

Overall, Letang said he feels good on the ice and is "making progress every day. There's no [return] date we're looking at right now."

He is being monitored to see "how I feel in the mornings when I come to the rink."

Letang has missed all six games after getting hurt at practice near the end of training camp.

Yakupov in Oilers' lineup

Center Nail Yakupov was not one of the four players who took part in an optional game-day skate for the Oilers, who played Monday night in Washington.

Yakupov, though, returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous two games. He apparently clashed to some degree with first-year Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins over his playing style.

Yakupov had no points in the Oilers' first four games before he was removed from the lineup.

Lots of No. 1 picks on ice

With Yakupov in the lineup, the game featured five of the past 11 first overall picks in the NHL draft: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (2003) and center Sidney Crosby (2005) of the Penguins, and winger Taylor Hall (2010), center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (20110 and Yakupov (2012) of the Oilers.

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Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published October 15, 2013 8:00 PM


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