NEW YORK — Defenseman Brooks Orpik was on the ice for the Penguins’ game-day skate Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, and he wasn’t just doing some conditioning on the side.
“That was a morning-skate participation,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
It was preparation for Orpik’s return to the lineup for Game 4 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. He had missed the previous five games because of an unspecified injury.
Orpik started the game paired with Rob Scuderi, preserving the productive, steady pairing of Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Orpik and Martin previously formed a shutdown pair. Orpik, however, did not return to the Penguins bench after the first period.
To make way for Orpik’s return, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was scratched. He played in his first five playoff games while Orpik was out and apparently hadn’t done anything to make it easy for the Penguins to pull him out of the lineup.
Bortuzzo’s spot-on stretch pass in Game 3 set up Sidney Crosby for a goal that ended Crosby’s playoff scoring drought, but that’s not Bortuzzo’s forte.
“I’m confident in what he’s done. I’m confident in how he’s played,” Bylsma said of Bortuzzo before the game. “He adds a physical element. Brooks is a different kind of physical than Robert is.
“Brooks is a physical guy, but Robert has a little bit more edge and sandpaper to him, and he’s done a good job of bringing that to our game and to our team.
“If he’s not in there, he will be missed.”
Rangers get Kreider back
As with Orpik, Rangers winger Chris Kreider returned for Game 4.
New York was hoping Kreider, who had 17 goals, 20 assists in 66 regular-season games, could provide a boost for the offense and power play.
He had been out since March 24 because of a broken left hand that required surgery.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Kreider got medically cleared Tuesday.
Moore lauds ex-team
Rangers center Dominic Moore has played for nine teams in the NHL, including a 59-game stint with the Penguins in 2006-07.
He appeared to fall out of favor with then-coach Michel Therrien and was sent to Minnesota for a draft choice at the trade deadline.
A lot has happened since then and, not surprisingly, Moore said the current Penguins are considerably different than the team for which he played.
“They’ve changed a lot,” he said. “It’s a different coach from where I was there, and [Bylsma’s] track record is one of success. … Obviously, there are still some of the key players and ingredients from when I was there.”
Moore might not be on a first-name basis with many of the players on Bylsma’s team, but he is not surprised by anything the Penguins have done in this series.
“They play a really good team game,” he said. “They play their systems well. They play a well-rounded game.
“They’re a tough team. We just have to keep playing our game and see what happens.”
Words of wisdom
Although scoring goals isn’t a major part of Craig Adams’ job description — he has seven in 102 career playoff games — Adams held a 1-0 edge on Crosby this spring until Crosby got one in Game 3.
Clearly, then, Adams was quite qualified to offer Crosby a few pointers on how he might be able to escape his slump.
“I just told him to close his eyes and shoot it,” Adams said, smiling.
“That’s what I do.”
Although Crosby’s teammates insisted throughout his drought that they weren’t concerned about his inability to score, it’s clear they recognize that their chances of having a significant impact in these playoffs will be enhanced if Crosby can start generating goals on a regular basis.
“I think we all know that if we’re going to go further, probably he’s going to have to produce,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
Some much-needed rest
After a much-chronicled stretch of five playoff games in seven days — Games 6 and 7 against Philadelphia, then Games 1-3 against the Penguins in a four-day stretch — the Rangers had Tuesday off.
“It was very good, body-wise and mentally,” New York center Brad Richards said. “The ups and downs of the playoffs are pretty emotional, and [we were] coming off of an emotional win-one, lose-one against Philly and then jump right into Pittsburgh.
“Three games went by so quickly. It’s good to just kind of reset and get your mind off of what just happened the last two weeks.”
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 7, 2014 8:51 PM