New twist to injury tale: Two Penguins players return
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The Penguins injury news continued to mount, but this time there was something rare: two players returned.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward Dustin Jeffrey played in their first game -- preseason or regular season -- when the Penguins beat Montreal, 3-1, Thursday night at Consol Energy Center.
Orpik, a physical defenseman, was coming off of summer abdominal surgery on his right side after having the same procedure a year earlier on his left side.
His journey of discomfort, surgeries, rehabilitation and setbacks left him a bit tentative despite assurances he was not putting himself at risk by playing.
"I've just got to believe them and go with it," Orpik said.
A hectic schedule -- it was the Penguins' ninth game in the first 15 days -- made it tough for Orpik to get quality practices after he was cleared to be on the ice.
"I just tried to be patient with it," he said. "It's still a little achy here and there, but I think it's as good as it's going to [be]."
Jeffrey had ligament surgery on his right knee in March and was cleared for contact several days ago.
• Center Evgeni Malkin missed his fourth game in a row and sixth in the past seven games because of lingering soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. Malkin was on the ice before but not during the game-day skate.
"There was not a setback," coach Dan Bylsma said, adding that Malkin is improving and his status is day-to-day.
"It's just with the amount of games we're playing, if he were to play every day we would be dealing with him being sore and stiff. It needs to calm down, to get better."
• Bylsma confirmed that winger Tyler Kennedy has a concussion. He will have to be symptom-free to move forward. He missed his third game.
• Rookie defenseman Brian Strait, injured Tuesday in Minnesota, has a hyperextended left elbow and will be out for a number of weeks.
• Center and captain Sidney Crosby skated before and during the morning skate as he comes back from a concussion. He has been cleared for contact for more than a week but has had a difficult time getting hit in practice because of the team's schedule.
Crosby, Jeffrey, Orpik and Malkin stayed behind while the Penguins traveled to Winnipeg and Minnesota earlier this week and skated with conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
Crosby and Jeffrey indicated there was contact, but it was not the open-ice, jarring type.
"We battled," Jeffrey said. "We did some stuff along the boards. We had to fight through a check. Stuff like that. I wouldn't say it was skating at center ice trying to hit each other."
As a matter of paperwork, the Penguins took Orpik and Jeffrey off of injured reserve and placed Kennedy and Strait on IR.
Hal Gill, who broke into the NHL in 1997, played his 1,000th game Thursday night.
The timing could not have been more appropriate. The towering defenseman was part of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup team.
"Someone was asking me what the highlights [of my career] were," Gill said. "I think there's only one. You play to win. You get one Cup, and you want more."
The Penguins had a brief tribute to Gill in the game.
"I love the fans here," he said. "They understand the game. They understand hard work. They appreciate that.
"And I think when I was here, I tried to do that, to work hard, and I think they appreciated that. I miss the fans here."
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang served the second and final game of his NHL-imposed suspension. ... Penguins forward Craig Adams, in penalty-killing duties, took a puck to the nose at the morning skate but was able to play. ... Penguins winger and leading goal-scorer James Neal did not participate in the morning skate but was in the lineup.