Penguins notebook: Brooks Orpik out, but no clues about why



In something out of the ordinary, particularly in the playoffs, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma opened his news conference following the team's game-day skate with a joke.

"Brooks Orpik skated in an undisclosed location with David Backes," Bylsma said, a reference to the mystery surrounding the status of the St. Louis forward while he missed two playoff games because of an injury.

It was Bylsma's way of being coy about the status of Orpik, who missed Game 5 of the Penguins' first-round playoff series against Columbus at Consol Energy Center.

Orpik left practice early Friday and did not participate in the game-day skate Saturday. Going into Game 5, the Penguins had not addressed his status.

Through the first four games of the series, Orpik led the Penguins' defensemen with nine hits. He also has a goal, an assist and seven blocked shots.

"A big part of the shutdown pair," said Orpik's regular defense partner, Paul Martin. "We developed some chemistry together. He's one of the veteran guys who knows what it takes."

Goc, Bortuzzo in lineup

Two Penguins players, center Marcel Goc and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, made their first appearance of the series in Game 5.

Goc, acquired from Florida at the trade deadline, returned from a foot injury, while Bortuzzo filled in for Orpik.

"It's an opportunity ... to step up," Bortuzzo said before playing in his first NHL playoff game. "I've been preparing every night like I'm going to play. The last couple of days have been no different.

"I've been told you prepare all year for something like this. I understand that it's going to be a different atmosphere and the game might be quicker, a little more physical, but I think that plays into my skill set.

"Nothing in practice can simulate what they're doing or what the pace is like out there, but you do the best you can."

Goc, who began the game centering the fourth line, said he didn't believe the extended time off would affect his play.

"I feel good," he said. "I've had a couple of practices. I'd [like] to try to get into the game quick. Get a hit, take a hit, and I should be good from there."

Vitale moves up and over

With Goc at center on the fourth line, Joe Vitale moved from that spot to right wing on the third line. He played there at times this season and said the transition isn't all that difficult.

"Wall play's a big part of being on the wing instead of being in the middle," he said. "Be a little more patient, especially in the playoffs with a lot of energy going on. You've got to be more patient and let your centerman do the work down low and you've got to make sure you hold position."

As for fourth line or third line, Vitale said the Penguins don't make a huge distinction in the two.

"You look at our third and fourth lines, I think they're interchangeable with personnel," Vitale said. "Really, it's no different. Third, fourth line, it's the same responsibility as far as getting pucks in [and] trying to stay in the offensive zone and being responsible defensively."

Bylsma said around the time the team added Goc and winger Lee Stempniak, the coaches talked to the forwards on those two lines.

"We challenged them to play in those situations," Bylsma said. "Really, there's not too much of a differentiation between the two."

Room for disagreement

Thursday, Bylsma publicly questioned his players' willingness to battle and compete at times during the first four games of the series.

Friday, his players universally endorsed that assessment.

Saturday, though, someone publicly disagreed.

Someone who, coincidentally, plays for Columbus.

"I don't think you can ever question a player's work ethic in the playoffs, or at any time," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "I would never question anyone's work ethic.

"There's a difference between working hard and working smart, and that goes for our team, just as much. ... I think that's a little ridiculous. Everyone wants to win the Stanley Cup."

Playing chess with friend

Bylsma was an assistant under Columbus coach Todd Richards at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate, and the two remain close.

Bylsma had been waiting for moment in this series when he would see Richards make the coaching equivalent of a chess move.

"I remember in a [AHL] playoff series against the Hershey Bears, Todd making an adjustment on the power-play breakout," Bylsma said. "[In Game 4], they made an adjustment on their power-play breakout. I somewhat expected it, but, as it was happening, that's the moment I remembered his work and his adjustment -- 'There's Todd playing a card or making an adjustment.'"

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


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