Penguins notebook: Playoff's arrival suits team just fine

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The Penguins' transition from the regular season to the playoffs brings with it a collective refrain of "finally."

"The past I don't know how long, it seems we've been working to get our game in order and to work on things and get better in certain areas," forward Craig Adams said. "At the end of the day, the wins and losses haven't meant as much as they did earlier in the season or as much as they will coming up.

"It will be fun to be done with that and see where we're at as a team, measure ourselves in the playoffs and play some very meaningful games."

A 4-3 shootout loss Sunday night to Ottawa ended an 82-game schedule. The Penguins were able to give several players with apparent minor injuries a game or two off over the last handful of games. They were 3-2-2 in April, with their last four games going to overtime or a shootout.

The Columbus Blue Jackets play at Consol Energy Center Wednesday in Game 1 of a best-of-seven first-round series.

The Penguins, who had a day off from practice Monday, knew weeks before they clinched that they would be a playoff team and the Metropolitan Division champions based on their points-hoarding play earlier in the season. They were locked in to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference well before the end of the season.

"Playing kind of meaningless games, it's not easy to get motivated," said defenseman Olli Maatta. "I think we did a pretty good job with it, but you can probably see it that the games really didn't matter that much.

"But it was all about getting ready for the playoffs. Now, it's the real deal. I feel really good about this team, that we can go for a long run."

Maatta, a rookie, will be making his NHL postseason debut.

Letang's icetime well spent

It was just three games, but Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is grateful he was able to play in them before the playoffs after a layoff of 21/2 months following a stroke.

"It's big," Letang said. "There are things that you can't really do in practice or on the ice doing extra stuff."

Letang had at least one point in each of the three games, a total of a goal and three assists. He even got some bonus physical play Saturday in the 4-3 overtime loss against Philadelphia.

"It was good to be a part of games, especially that Philly one, an emotional game," he said.

Vokoun is recalled

The Penguins recalled goaltender Tomas Vokoun after his conditioning assignment with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

Vokoun was 1-1 with Wilkes-Barre over the weekend. Those were his first games this season after a blood-clot issue developed in training camp.

It's unclear what Vokoun's role, if any, will be in the playoffs. Coach Dan Bylsma has said he is comfortable with Jeff Zatkoff continuing to back up No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the postseason.

Barring some major development that would coax the Penguins into using a No. 3 goalie in the playoffs, it seems likely that Vokoun's time with the Penguins, and perhaps his career, is over. His contract expires after this season.

Columbus health update

Columbus coach Todd Richards said the Blue Jackets could get two injured wingers -- Nick Foligno (knee) and Plum native R.J. Umberger (unspecified) -- back soon. "We're anticipating them both being ready at some point in this series; just don't know when," Richards said, but he added that both players have been ruled out for Game 1.

Outdoor screen is back

The Penguins again will have a large outdoor screen set up for fans to watch the team's playoff games.

The 16-by-9-foot screen will be set up at the corner of Center Avenue and Mario Lemieux Place and will be part of an interactive fan zone.

The fan zone will open four hours before home games, two hours before road games. Alcoholic beverages and grills are prohibited.

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


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