Asham might return to Penguins lineup against Flyers
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In part because winger Arron Asham could return to the lineup today and in part because the game is against Philadelphia, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma shuffled three of his line combinations Friday for practice at Southpointe.
The only one that remained intact was the high-scoring top line of Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
Bylsma pointed out that, with the new configuration, each line has at least one player who has a physical edge.
He thought his team lacked that dynamic when forechecking and creating good chances Wednesday in a 2-1 loss against Anaheim.
"One of the things that was evident against Anaheim, we had some good shifts and [offensive] zone time, [but] we didn't a lot get around the net and we didn't get inside there, penetrate," Bylsma said.
"Against teams like that, bigger defensive teams that crowd the house, you have to get on the inside.
"Playing on the outside is not going to get you much. [We wanted] a little bigger presence on some of those lines."
The other lines had Jordan Staal centering for Steve Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis, Dustin Jeffrey centering for Matt Cooke and Asham, and Joe Vitale centering for Craig Adams and Richard Park. Center Cal O'Reilly skated with injured center Sidney Crosby.
Asham, who has missed 13 games because of a concussion, was taken off of injured reserve and said after practice that he "felt great" and "hopefully, it's a go [today] and I'm in the lineup."
Bylsma confirmed that Asham "is possible for the weekend, getting back into the lineup."
The Flyers have been hit by injuries lately, beyond the concussion that some time ago ended defenseman and captain Chris Pronger's season.
Rugged forward Tom Sestito will have surgery Tuesday for a torn leg muscle. Forwards Danny Briere (unspecified) and James van Riemsdyk (concussion) are day-to-day.
Philadelphia should get former Penguins winger Jaromir Jagr back from the flu.
One other player who will be missing is forward Zac Rinaldo, who will be serving the second game of a two-game suspension.
Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen played with Nicklas Grossman in Dallas before they were acquired by the Penguins in February 2011.
They offered a scouting report on the 6-foot-4, 226-pound defenseman acquired Thursday by Philadelphia from the Stars.
"He's a big, physical guy, good stick, good shot, a guy who can play against [an opponent's] top line," Neal said. "He's a great guy. I had a lot of fun playing with him."
One of Grossman's fortes is clearing the front of his team's net.
"He's really good on the penalty-kill and uses his size and strength in front of the net," Niskanen said.
Former Penguins forward Max Talbot has career highs of 16 goals, 27 points for the Flyers already this season. Bylsma is not surprised by that.
"Max is playing, the goals and the points have been there. They haven't really changed the way Max has played. He's playing the same way.
"He's gotten some goals. He's got a lot early on. He's gotten some recently, but he's a catalyst-type player, energy, a great penalty-killer and he's been all those things and tenacious. He's gotten some points, career highs, this year. He's been a factor that way, but I don't think his game has changed at all.
"I think it's very similar to what we know Max can be."
The Flyers led the league in goals (188) and average goals per game (3.30) before Friday. ... Philadelphia is 4-9-1 in games that begin before 7 p.m.; the Penguins are 4-2 in such games.
First Published February 18, 2012 12:00 am