Penguins notebook: Post-break advantages differ



It is, at the very least, an interesting theory.

Doesn't mean it is universally accepted, though.

A day before he was injured in the Penguins' 5-0 loss Monday night in Ottawa, winger Pascal Dupuis suggested that playing their first post-holiday break game on the road could work to the Penguins' advantage.

Or, more to the point, to the disadvantage of the Carolina Hurricanes, whom they will face at 7:08 p.m. Friday at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

"They're still going to have family [staying] in their houses and little Christmas parties here and there," Dupuis said. "When you're at home after a break, you have the comfort of not traveling but, at the same time, you still have people in your house. It's a little different."

Fellow forward Jussi Jokinen, however, has an entirely different perspective on the game, in part because of the disruption to the team's usual routine of traveling to a city the day before a game.

"That's the toughest game, the 27th," he said. "You're traveling the same day [that you play]. Whoever has home ice on the 27th, that's big."

Extra work suits Niskanen

Matt Niskanen entered training camp widely regarded as the Penguins defenseman most likely to be traded because of a salary-cap squeeze. He still was on the payroll when the preseason ended, however, and in firm possession of a spot on the No. 3 pairing.

Lately, his profile, playing time and responsibilities have risen considerably, because he became the Penguins' most experienced healthy defenseman while Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang have been out because of injuries.

Suddenly, a guy who played around 20 minutes in the early days of the season routinely has been logging 25 or more. And thriving with the extra work.

"I'm more tired than I would be otherwise, probably," Niskanen said. "But, other than that, I'm feeling pretty good.

"You're definitely involved in the games when you're playing those kinds of minutes. That's exciting. I'm not going to complain."

Scuderi eyes better results

Scuderi is scheduled to have a bone scan on his fractured ankle today.

If that test shows sufficient healing, Scuderi expects to receive clearance to begin having full contact in practice and approval to rejoin the lineup whenever the coaching staff deems him ready.

But, while Scuderi seems optimistic he will receive the results he wants, he remembered that he felt that way before his previous examination, too.

"I feel very good," he said. "I felt very good a couple of weeks ago.

"I was disappointed that the medical tests didn't turn out the way I felt. But there's nothing you can do. It's disappointing, but you roll with it.

"We're here again, and I'm hoping that the extra time will have paid off."

Jokinen likes longer break

Count Jokinen among those who endorse the idea of expanding the NHL's holiday break from two days to three.

The extra day was added in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated early this year.

"Especially the guys who are going to their hometown, that's huge," Jokinen said. "Even if it's only one more day, it's big, especially for those guys.

"Other guys like it, too. It's a tough season, especially in the Olympic year. The schedule is really tough, on every team.

"Even a three-day break, you can kind of get your mind off hockey. I think it's big, mentally and physically."


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.

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