Penguins notebook: Engelland suspended for five games for hit in Detroit game


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NEW YORK -- The NHL suspended Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland five games for a hit Saturday on Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader.

Engelland hit Abdelkader on the chin with his shoulder late in the first period of the Penguins' 4-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena and was assessed a match penalty. He had a hearing Wednesday morning with Brendan Shanahan, who handles supplemental discipline for the NHL.

The suspension will cost Engelland $14,529.90 in salary.

Engelland served Game No. 2 when the Penguins faced the New York Rangers Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and will sit out his third when Minnesota visits Consol Energy Center tonight.

The Penguins already were without their top four defensemen -- Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang -- because of injuries, and losing Engelland denies them a valuable physical presence.

"There's an intimidation factor," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "He brings that physical factor of body checks, and his ability to handle heavyweights ... he's done really well against them.

"And the other teams' little guys who tend to be 'rats,' they smarten up a little bit when [Engelland] is standing next to them. And, for a guy who's normally a [No.] 5 or 6 defenseman who doesn't play a lot of minutes, he's in great shape. In this situation [with the Penguins' injuries], he would be playing a lot."

Engelland, eligible to return Dec. 27 at Carolina, served a three-game suspension in December 2011 for leaving his feet and making contact with the head of Chicago forward Marcus Kruger.

Malkin update

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin missed his second game in a row because of an apparent leg injury and will not dress for a game tonight against the Wild, coach Dan Bylsma said. His injury is to be re-evaluated this weekend. Bylsma said Malkin, who did not accompany the Penguins to New York, skated "lightly" Wednesday on his own.

Neal's suspension ends

Penguins right winger James Neal completed a five-game suspension assessed for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand in the head in a 3-2 loss Dec. 7 at TD Garden and should be in the lineup tonight.

Although the Penguins have fared well in Neal's absence -- they were 4-0 without him before the Rangers game -- he will be a welcome addition to the offense. Neal has developed an exceptional chemistry with Malkin and had nine goals and eight assists in the 10 games before his suspension.

"He steps on the ice and immediately is dangerous with his shot, and what he brings," Bylsma said. "Malkin gives him the puck like no other, but [Neal] still brings that."

Yeo, Cooke return

Although the Penguins don't see the Wild very often, that doesn't mean they won't recognize some people on the other bench. Mike Yeo, a former Penguins assistant, is in his third season as coach in Minnesota, and forward Matt Cooke will be facing his old team for the first time since leaving as a free agent in the offseason after playing five seasons with the Penguins.

He was an effective blue-collar winger and penalty-killer and, after a spate of highly publicized illegal hits on opponents such as Marc Savard and Ryan McDonagh, exorcised cheap shots from his repertoire.

"Definitely, it will be different to have [Cooke] on the other side, but that's the name of the game," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. "Yes, it is strange for the guy who comes back, but, for the rest of [his ex-team], it's one guy on the other team. He definitely played well for us and he's a pretty good player."

Cooke has five goals, seven assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-6 in 36 appearances, and is averaging 15 minutes and 21 seconds of ice time. An average of 2:31 of that total is short-handed, more than any Minnesota forward except Kyle Brodziak.

 


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published December 18, 2013 3:11 PM

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