Penguins notebook: Injured forwards still in question for Game 1



Injured forwards Evgeni Makin, Joe Vitale and Chris Conner joined some of their Penguins teammates Sunday for a game-day skate, but none played in the regular-season finale against the Ottawa Senators.

The club cautioned that those three only participated in the skate because it was an optional, with most of the team's regulars sitting out.

Coach Dan Bylsma said he doesn't have a feel for whether Malkin (foot), Vitale (unspecified) and Conner (foot) will be available to play in Game 1 of the Penguins' Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I don't have an expectation, nor do I have a definitive answer on what players will be available," Bylsma said.

Vokoun in action again

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun gave up three goals on 21 shots -- including the deciding goal with 26.6 seconds left in regulation -- in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's 3-2 loss Sunday against the Toronto Marlies. All three Marlies goals came in the third period after Wilkes-Barre built a 2-0 lead.

Vokoun, 37, is on a conditioning assignment with the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate. He had not played this season before Friday, when he and Wilkes-Barre beat Syracuse, 3-2, in a shootout.

Veteran presence

When winger Chuck Kobasew, a veteran of 600 NHL games, cleared waivers in early March and was assigned to Wilkes-Barre, he didn't feel pressure to perform.

Quite the opposite.

"No pressure. Go play. Don't over-think things. Let your instincts take over," said Kobasew, who was called up by the Penguins and played against Ottawa.

In 11 games with Wilkes-Barre, Kobasew had 10 goals, 11 points. That was far more productive than the two goals -- both game-winners in the first two games this season -- he had in 32 games with the Penguins.

"It was good to go down there and play," Kobasew said of Wilkes-Barre. "I just wanted to play, get comfortable with my game again. I had a great opportunity down there. I played in all situations. "

Team awards

During the game, the Penguins recognized their team award winners:

Center Sidney Crosby as the team MVP; defenseman Olli Maatta as their rookie of the year; defenseman Brooks Orpik, players' player award; defenseman Kris Letang, Masterton nominee; Crosby and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, booster club cup (three stars); defenseman Matt Niskanen, defensive player of the year and good guy award; Fleury, community service award.

Urban mistake

Columbus is home to Ohio State, which has one of the most widely known college football programs.

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer apparently forgot that they weren't the only game in town in an interview recently with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding his recruiting pitch.

"You get a premium education with the opportunity to go compete for a national championship in a large city that really has no professional sports team," Meyer said. "There's a lot to be offered up here."

The existence of the Blue Jackets, soccer's Crew and baseball's Class AAA Clippers refuted Meyer's notion.

Meyer later apologized.

Early ticket snub

Penguins fans have had a strong presence when the team travels to play against Columbus in Nationwide Arena, but there's a hitch for this playoff series.

The Blue Jackets are not accepting ticket orders from anyone with a credit card billing address outside of Ohio until Tuesday morning.

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


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