Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis waiting for OK to play


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Pascal Dupuis' knee surgery was, by almost any measure, a resounding success.

That doesn't mean he made it through the procedure unscathed.

Nearly seven months after undergoing an operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Dupuis says he doesn't have any feeling around much of his right kneecap, an unfortunate by-product of the surgery.

"My skin, I don't have any sensation anymore, on the front, because they cut all the nerves and everything," Dupuis said Wednesday.

"When I have my equipment on, I'm fine because when I fall, I feel [the shin pad hitting the ice]. But if I don't have anything on [the knee] and I go to kneel down, I have to think about where I'm at physically, because I don't feel it when my knee goes down."

But that, Dupuis said, is the only significant lingering effect of the operation that rebuilt his knee and ended his 2013-14 season.

Which probably explains why he's smiling as easily and as often as he did before being injured.

Although Dupuis has not been cleared for contact -- and has no guarantee he will be before training-camp workouts begin Sept. 19 -- he is decidedly upbeat about how his recovery is progressing.

"I feel I'm where I should be," he said. "Obviously, it's been a long process to get where I am now."

Dupuis and some teammates have been taking part in informal practices at Consol Energy Center and the limited contact -- most of it inadvertent, incidental or both -- he's gotten during those sessions has not caused any problems.

"We don't hit anybody this early, anyway, so I wouldn't be able to test it," he said. "Yes, I'm battling in the corners, one-on-one, and it feels great. It doesn't swell on me.

"The way it feels is the way I would feel this time of year, usually. It's just not battle-tested yet."

Because doctors and trainers will determine when he is ready to take that step, Dupuis isn't fixating on that facet of his recovery.

"The only part I can control myself is being ready, physically and mentally," he said. "I know that when they give me the green light, I won't second-guess myself. When they give me the green light, it's to go all-out."

Dupuis was injured early in a 5-0 loss Dec. 23 at Ottawa, where linemate Sidney Crosby landed on the outside of his right leg after being hip-checked by Senators defenseman Marc Methot. He had surgery Feb. 12, at which time his recovery time was projected to be six to eight months.

He plans to wear a brace on his surgically repaired knee to protect it from future damage and does not anticipate that it will impede his skating, the cornerstone of his game.

Dupuis has worn a brace on his left knee for more than a decade and said he had the brace on his right knee for some of his summer workouts so that he could get comfortable with it.

"Half of my training [sessions], I had it on, just to get used to it," he said. "I don't even think about it."

Dupuis said he began skating in June, as soon as the doctors and trainers gave permission.

"I've been on the ice three of four times a week since," he said. "I didn't take a break. The protocol was in place for me to be ready for camp."

Even if Dupuis' knee is a non-issue by the time the regular-season opener Oct. 9 against Anaheim arrives, it isn't clear where he will fit into the lineup.

He has been effective at right wing on the No. 1 line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz in recent years -- Crosby tends to be at his best with wingers who play straight-line games -- but new coach Mike Johnston said recently that he prefers to group his forwards in pairs rather than having permanent three-man combinations.

He cited Crosby and Kunitz as an effective twosome, which means it's conceivable Dupuis will be deployed on some other forward unit.

While making no secret of his desire to remain on the top line -- "Obviously, I'm a proud individual," he said, "I was there before, playing with [Crosby and Kunitz]" -- Dupuis stressed that he will embrace any role he is given.

"We'll see if the new coach has other ideas," he said. "It's his boat right now. He's driving it, so I don't know where he wants his crew to be.

"If he wants me to work something else on the boat, I'll work something else. I've always had that mentality.

"You know me. From Day 1, it doesn't matter where I play. I give my all, all of the time."

And he always does it with feeling. Regardless of whether he has any around his kneecap.

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG


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