Penguins notebook: Status of Chris Kunitz, James Neal unclear



The Penguins could be missing two of their top forwards when they begin a home-and-home series with Philadelphia Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Left winger Chris Kunitz and right winger James Neal did not practice Thursday at Southpointe, and coach Dan Bylsma said their status for the weekend has not been determined.

"We'll re-evaluate [today] and, hopefully, see both back with us," he said.

Bylsma added that neither is regarded as a lost-time injury "at this point," but "we'll see more [today] and Saturday."

Kunitz and Neal were given "maintenance days" Thursday because of assorted bumps and bruises, Bylsma said, but Kunitz also is dealing with the effects of having both legs slam into a goalpost in the Penguins' 2-0 victory Tuesday night against Washington at Consol Energy Center.

"Obviously, Kunitz went into the net hard and returned to play after that, but is dealing with some bumps and bruises," he said.

"The collision he had with the net, you know you're doing to be dealing with a contusion ... you're dealing with a heavy blow to the leg.

"He hit his ankle first on the [left] skate, and then we saw him hit above the knee on the second one."

Bylsma said that X-rays on Kunitz did not detect any fractures.

Kunitz did not seem to be in pain when he walked through the locker room after the practice.

Fleury frowns on OT changes

There wasn't much support among the NHL's general managers at their meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., earlier this week for making three-on-three play a part of regular-season overtime.

They shared that sentiment with Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, one of many to wonder whether that is a reasonable way to determine the winner of a game that is tied after regulation and five minutes of four-on-four competition.

"Other than summer hockey, I don't think I've ever really played three-on-three," Fleury said. "It's kind of tough to say what it would be like.

"In a game, you'll see four-on-four more than you'll see three-on-three. It's a little more realistic."

Fleury said he doesn't object to the four-on-four overtime format -- "it's not too crazy wide open," he said -- and made it clear that he is a fan of shootouts.

Perhaps that's because he has thrived in shootouts throughout his career, going 43-19 while stopping 152 of 199 shots.

"I like the shootout because [fans] get on their feet," he said. "The [(conventional] game is over, and everybody is on their feet. It's exciting, one-on-one. The guys have good moves, and it's fun to watch."

No fudging

Kunitz and linemate Sidney Crosby are tied for the team lead with 31 goals. At least for now, however, there is no serious competition to finish in the top spot.

"We haven't talked about it," Crosby said. "Maybe when we get closer, we'll see. I don't expect there'll be anything fishy going on. I look for him a lot, and that's not going to change. And I'm sure he looks for me, too."

Loneys invest in USHL team

Former Penguins left winger Troy Loney and his wife, Aafke, have joined the ownership group of the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League.

Loney, who filled a valuable blue-collar role on the Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992, will oversee day-to-day business and hockey operations for the Phantoms.

His son, Ty, played for Youngstown before enrolling at the University of Denver.

Tip-ins

Defenseman Paul Martin, injured in the Olympics, still has a supportive device on his right hand/wrist, and Bylsma said there is no target date for him to resume practicing. ... The game in Philadelphia will start at 1:08 p.m. Saturday, and the rematch will be at 12:38 p.m. Sunday at Consol Energy Center.


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

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