Penguins Notebook: LW Kunitz likely to play vs. Sabres
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Left winger Chris Kunitz is listed as probable for the game tonight against Buffalo at Consol Energy Center.
That's not surprising.
Where he will be used if he returns against the Sabres is. At least a little.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Monday that Kunitz, who has missed the past 13 games because of an undisclosed injury, likely would be deployed on a line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy, moving into a spot generally filled by Matt Cooke. He did not elaborate on where Cooke would be used.
Although the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy line has been consistently effective when called upon the past couple of seasons, Bylsma noted that Staal and Kunitz played together after the latter was acquired from Anaheim in 2009 and meshed almost instantly.
"He played with Jordan Staal when he first got here for a number of games and had success there," Bylsma said. "He's a good fit."
The Penguins had hoped to get Kunitz back last weekend, but it was determined that he wasn't quite ready.
"I just wasn't feeling good," Kunitz said. "Didn't think it was a smart decision to go out there when you're not feeling as close to 100 percent as you want to be."
He seems optimistic, though, that he'll be close enough today to dress for the Sabres game.
"Hopefully, I can play," Kunitz said. "That's what I'm striving for, to get back as quick as I can."
Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has missed the past five games because of a broken finger, went through a lengthy on-ice workout with conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice Monday, as did forwards Mike Comrie and Arron Asham.
Comrie, recovering from hip surgery, has sat out the past 45 games, while Asham has missed 16 because of a concussion. Neither is close to rejoining the lineup.
While the Penguins are happy to get back anyone they can, having Orpik return -- something that likely won't happen for at least a couple of more weeks -- will be particularly significant. He averages a little less than 21 minutes of ice time per game and is particularly valuable as a penalty-killer.
Consider that through the game in which Orpik was injured, the Penguins had allowed 32 goals in 253 short-handed situations, a success rate of 87.4 percent.
Since he has been out, they have given up four while being short-handed 17 times, a kill rate of 76.5 percent.
"Brooks Orpik is a guy who was on the ice for the majority of our time short," said assistant coach Tony Granato, who oversees the penalty-killing.
"He's absorbed a lot of minutes in that position. He's one of the best penalty-killing guys in the league, so we miss him."
Defenseman Paul Martin logged a season-high 35 minutes, 26 seconds of ice time in the Penguins' 2-1 overtime loss Friday at New Jersey, then played another 28:36 in a 3-2 overtime victory in Boston 24 hours later.
Orpik's absence is a factor in his workload of late, as is the departure of Alex Goligoski in a trade with Dallas 15 days ago. And Kris Letang's early ejection from the Devils game obviously played a role in how much Martin played that night.
Martin, though, insisted Monday that he doesn't mind the burden he has been asked to carry.
"I love it," he said. "I think if you'd ask anyone if they [would want to] get more ice, they'd say, 'Yes.' ... Actually, I think you play a little better as you get a few more minutes."
This is game No. 5 on a seven-game road trip for the Sabres, equaling the longest in franchise history. ... Coincidentally or otherwise, Buffalo is 5-0-2 since Terry Pegula took over as owner Feb. 22. ... The next victory for Sabres coach Lindy Ruff will be his 516th, tying Chicago's Billy Reay for second most with one franchise in NHL history. Al Arbour got 740 with the New York Islanders.
First Published March 8, 2011 12:00 am