Comrie is easing back into lineup
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Remember the great chemistry that Mike Comrie and Evgeni Malkin developed when they played together in training camp?
And remember how their partnership was sabotaged when Comrie hurt his hip in the second game of the regular season?
Well, a few of those memories apparently have to be adjusted a bit.
Not the part about Comrie and Malkin jelling so well, certainly. Anyone who watched them in the preseason had to see how nicely their games meshed.
But it turns out that Comrie didn't really have his season undermined because he injured his hip in that game Oct. 9 against Montreal.
Oh, there's no question that something bad happened that night, because the quality of Comrie's work dropped precipitously in its aftermath. The roots of his hip problem stretched back a lot further than last fall, however, even though he didn't realize it at the time.
- Matchup: Philadelphia Flyers at Penguins, 7:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Sergei Bobrovsky for Flyers.
- Penguins: : Need two points to reach 100 for fourth time in past five seasons. ... D Kris Letang has one goal, six assists in five games against Philadelphia. ... Have gone 23-7-8 in games decided by one goal.
- Flyers: Are 2-0 at Consol Energy Center. ... C Jeff Carter, RW Daniel Briere are tied for team lead with 19 road goals. ... Own second-best intra-division record in NHL, going 15-3-2 inside Atlantic.
- Hidden stat: Flyers' next road victory will be their 25th, setting franchise record.
"It doesn't matter what you're doing -- if you're sitting at a computer at a desk or if you're teaching a class -- sometimes you're going to have aches and pains that you don't realize [you have] until you get it fixed," Comrie said.
Comrie had surgery on his hip Dec. 29. Having the considerable damage there repaired made him recognize how long it had been since he'd been able to go on the ice without at least some discomfort.
"I'm skating pain-free right now," he said. "I haven't done that in a few years. I feel like I'm able to skate hard again."
Comrie's injury forced him to miss 52 games, but he has played in each of the past two and should be in the lineup tonight when Philadelphia visits Consol Energy Center.
He filled a relatively limited role in both of his appearances, logging eight minutes and seven seconds of ice time Friday against New Jersey and 10 minutes, 19 seconds Sunday against Florida and has been used primarily on the fourth line with Mike Rupp and Arron Asham.
That is not the ideal niche for Comrie, who was signed as a free agent in early September because the Penguins believed he could enhance their offense.
"He's not here to be a checker," said assistant coach Tony Granato, who works with the forwards. "He's not here to play against the other team's top line.
"He's here to help us put points on the board. To do that, you want to put him with guys who, offensively, have instincts similar to his."
Comrie, though, said he can adapt to his surroundings, tailor his game to those of his linemates.
"Who you're with is something you have to ... read what their abilities are," he said. "If you're out there with a guy who can crash and bang, you put it in his corner. If you're out there with a guy who can make plays, you get open for him."
While Comrie's personal stats likely would benefit from playing on a more offense-oriented line, don't look for him to lobby coach Dan Bylsma and his staff to be moved into such a role, or a more prominent spot on the power play.
"You try to perform and do your job when the coaches put you out," Comrie said. "They make the decisions on who's on [the ice], who's playing, who's in certain situations."
How much and where Comrie is used in the final six games of regular season and the playoffs likely will hinge, at least in part, on the personnel the coaching staff has to pick from on a given evening.
"That's hard to say," Granato said. "Hopefully, [Mark] Letestu is coming back in a game or two. It depends on who's healthy. With the forwards we've had banged up, we need depth, and we need guys to absorb more minutes sometimes than we'd expect them to have to."
Comrie said his hip has not caused any problems in his first two games back, and he goes through an extensive exercise regimen to minimize the danger of that happening.
"There's a lot of before-and-after type exercises that help," he said. "I've really had to strengthen my muscles around my hip to take away the pain from the hip flexor."
Comrie has had plenty of incentive to do that work, though: He's about to appear in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, when he was part of the Ottawa team that beat the Penguins in Round 1 and made it to the Stanley Cup final.
"We're all excited," Comrie said. "It's the best time of year."
First Published March 29, 2011 12:00 am