No changes expected after Penguins loss
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Left winger Chris Kunitz, a member of arguably the top line in the NHL this season, skated alongside Joe Vitale and Dustin Jeffrey during practice Monday at Southpointe.
That doesn't mean Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has decided to dismantle his top line in the wake of the 6-2 loss Sunday in Buffalo, however.
Just that Kunitz's usual linemates, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, were given the day off, as were left winger Matt Cooke and defenseman Brooks Orpik.
At this point, there's no evidence that any of the four will be unable to dress when the Penguins face the New York Rangers tonight at Consol Energy Center, although Bylsma was somewhat cryptic about their status after the workout.
"We had maintenance days for several players who didn't go on the ice today," he said. "Varying degrees and varying bumps and bruises. We'll see what our lineup is [today]."
The Penguins added a little intrigue to the makeup of their team tonight when they recalled left winger Eric Tangradi from their American Hockey League team in Wilkes-Barre in late afternoon. He does not have a point in 12 NHL games this season.
Cooke was injured late in the first period Sunday, when a Kunitz slap shot struck him on the left forearm.
Cooke, in obvious pain, immediately skated to the bench and proceeded directly to the locker room.
He said Monday that the puck opened a gash that required stitches and said he feared initially that his arm had been broken, but added that he intends to play against the Rangers.
Cooke did, after being tended to, return to play the final two periods of the game in Buffalo.
Bylsma doesn't seem to be experiencing any buyer's remorse over that six-year, $30 million contract the Penguins signed Neal to Sunday.
"James has shown this year what kind of goal-scorer he is on the wing, and he's a Pittsburgh Penguin in how he plays," he said. "He's got speed, he's an aggressive player, he's a physical player and his shot, his release, is one of the best in the league.
"He's been an effective player for us. He's played alongside Evgeni for most of the year. He's been a big cog in our power play. ... Maybe something we didn't necessarily have in the past was a guy who's going to score the goal, and he's done that for our power play."
Neal is second on the team to Malkin in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57), but he's second to no one in penalty minutes, with 66.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has faced four penalty shots this season and stopped two of them, including his rejection of Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta Sunday in the second period.
Fleury didn't have much of a book on Kaleta -- "I couldn't remember from before what he likes to do, so I just tried to stay patient," he said -- but still managed to glove his shot to raise his save percentage on penalty shots this season to .500.
That's pretty ordinary, at best, especially alongside his work in shootouts.
This season, Fleury has turned aside 26 of the 33 opponents he has faced in shootouts, a save percentage of .788.
Fleury is keenly aware of that disparity, but doesn't have an explanation for it.
Asked why he fares worse on penalty shots, he shrugged and said, "I don't do as well as in the shootout, for some reason."
Former Penguins winger Ruslan Fedotenko, who has missed the past five games because of an unspecified injury, might return to the Rangers' lineup tonight.
Fedotenko was injured on a high hit from another Penguins alum, Dominic Moore, who was then with Tampa Bay but subsequently was traded to San Jose.
Fedotenko has seven goals and seven assists in 51 games this season.
Another ex-Penguin, Mike Rupp, has four goals and one assist in 35 games. He signed with New York as a free agent in July.
Center Sidney Crosby worked out on the ice with conditioning coach Mike Kadar before the Penguins practiced Monday. ... New York has won five consecutive games in Pittsburgh, beginning with a 3-2 overtime victory Feb. 12, 2010, the Rangers' final visit to Mellon Arena.
First Published February 21, 2012 12:00 am