Penguins Notebook: Kunitz's return still on hold
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Left winger Chris Kunitz, who has missed the Penguins' past 10 games because of an unspecified injury, took a big step toward returning to the lineup when he went through a full practice Tuesday at Southpointe.
He doesn't know, however, when he'll be ready to take the final one.
"Sometimes, it takes only a few sessions," he said. "Sometimes, it could take a week."
Kunitz added that returning will be viable "when I can absorb that contact you need to play at the NHL level."
While Kunitz will not play when the Penguins face Toronto tonight at the Air Canada Centre, a number of other players who have been injured lately will. They include right winger Tyler Kennedy, defenseman Paul Martin and goalie Brent Johnson.
Kennedy sat out the Penguins' 6-5 shootout victory Saturday in Toronto, while Martin has missed the past four games and Johnson sat out practice Monday.
Alex Kovalev hasn't had much chance to settle in with the Penguins -- the game tonight will be their third on the road since he was acquired from Ottawa Thursday -- but he did get a chance Monday to visit a few spots he remembered from his first stint here.
"I drove around the city a little bit, went to some old places to eat," he said.
"Driving around, it definitely didn't feel like it has been almost 10 years. A lot of things look the same. I'm just happy to be here again."
Kovalev said the only major change he noticed was the new arena -- "It took me a while to find the locker room"-- and reiterated he believes he can have an impact similar to the one he had when he joined the Penguins for the first time in 1998.
That would be a huge plus for the Penguins if he could, considering what injuries have done to their lineup over the past couple of months.
"I'll help as much as I can," Kovalev said. "I'll do my best. I can be the same player I used to be here.
"You can't fill all those holes, but I'll try to do my best."
The game tonight in Toronto will complete a novel stretch of the schedule for the Penguins, who have been off since Saturday.
After all, they are not in the habit of playing consecutive games against the same opponent, with both games on the road.
"It is different," center Jordan Staal said.
Winger Pascal Dupuis, however, said he did similar things in Western Canada a couple of times while playing for Minnesota, and that having three full days between games makes it seem a bit less strange.
"It's not like we stayed in their city," he said.
"We came back home and practiced. It's not like we played them in a back-to-back, or with one day in between."
Coach Dan Bylsma hit his players with an interesting wrinkle early in practice Tuesday: He had scrimmages going at both ends of the ice, with all forwards and defensemen playing opposite-handed.
Guys who naturally are right-handed were shooting left, and vice versa.
In a sport where some players clearly are more gifted than others, it was a great equalizer.
"It has nothing to do with being good or not," Dupuis said.
"It's so weird. You feel like you can't handle the puck anymore."
Brad Thiessen of the Penguins' team in Wilkes-Barre was named American Hockey League goalie of the month for February.
Thiessen gave up just 12 goals in 10 appearances, posting three shutouts, an 8-2 record, a 1.28 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.
He and goaltending partner John Curry shared the award in October.
First Published March 2, 2011 1:04 am