Penguins notebook: Bennett battles through illness

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Winger Beau Bennett made a splash Friday after a 50-game absence, scoring the winning goal as the Penguins beat Columbus, 2-1.

He followed up Sunday with an assist and not quite as much fanfare in a 4-1 win against Chicago.

"Beau was very good in the Columbus game. I don't think he was as strong [against Chicago] in his game," coach Dan Bylsma said.

Turns out there was a reason, and it didn't involve his surgically repaired wrist.

Bennett came down with a respiratory ailment that he blamed on traveling while on a conditioning assignment to the American Hockey League. He hadn't had to travel much this season; injuries have limited him to 14 games.

"Usually, I get sick, badly sick, about twice a year just because I'm not really good with the cold weather," the southern California native said after practice Monday. "This year, I managed to escape it, and now the end of winter [it hits].

"I caught it early enough that I got on top of it. I usually let it fester because I just want to wait and see if I get better, and I never do. I've been a lot healthier diet-wise, and I think that's helped me out, too.

"[Sunday] night, I didn't feel my best, but I also was able to keep my energy up, drink a lot of water."

As for the state of his game, Bennett is looking at a crash course.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "There are only seven games left [in the regular season]. I just want to keep getting better. I know I only played two games. You can't make too big of a deal out of that. If I can string together these last seven, play well and help the team out, I'll be really happy."

No punishment for Orpik

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik did not have a hearing or face supplemental discipline for a hit Sunday that knocked Chicago captain Jonathan Toews out of the game.

Orpik has been reluctant to talk about the hit, which was not penalized, but he was not reluctant to address some of the internal discussions the team had lately. He was one of the speakers at the closed-door players meeting Tuesday after a 3-2 loss to Phoenix.

"We talked about fatigue," Orpik said. "We're just staying positive. Guys are working hard. Guys are really committed here. Everybody wants to win. Things just weren't going our way. You look at Chicago. Chicago's one of the best teams in the league, and they're really struggling right now.

"Whether it's injuries or fatigue or just ups and downs, you've got to learn to deal with it. I think we just wanted to make sure stuff wasn't creeping into the room."

The Penguins are 2-1 since that night, going into a home game tonight against Carolina. Orpik said the team successfully withstood outside influences, hand-wringing and finger-pointing.

"I'll be honest: Nobody knows what goes on in our [locker] room," he said. "They try to guess what's going on in our [locker] room, try to guess what's going on with our team, but nobody really knows. It's all speculation. You just try to avoid that stuff.

"We knew if we worked hard, we have enough talent in here that we would turn things around."

Crosby's scoring impressive

Penguins center Sidney Crosby always draws tough matchups, yet he leads the NHL with 99 points and seems a likely favorite to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

What greatly impresses Bylsma is Crosby's margin in the scoring race. He was 18 points ahead of Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf before the Ducks faced Winnipeg Monday.

"That's pretty amazing," Bylsma said. "You know, you can make a fair amount of money in this league by getting 20 points, let alone 20 points more than the player with the second-most points."

With his next point, Crosby will reach 100 for the fifth time in his career but the first time since 2009-10.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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