Penguins Notebook: MacIntyre, his ilk face diminished roles
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Winger Steve MacIntyre will be listed as a scratch for the Penguins today when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning, only because his reassignment to the American Hockey League does not begin until Monday.
General manager Ray Shero noted that MacIntyre is on a two-way contract and can be recalled for a stretch of time without having to clear waivers should the Penguins need him, but the truth is, it is not clear whether he will play in the NHL again.
MacIntyre, 31, is one of what might be a quickly dying breed -- an enforcer. While there are still fights in the NHL, such as the two in the Penguins' 4-1 win Friday at Florida, teams are dressing enforcers less and less, and the designated fighters are finding fewer takers to drop the gloves.
"I don't agree with the way things are going right now, but I'm just a guy that's got an opinion," MacIntyre said recently following enforcer Colton Orr 's demotion to the AHL by Toronto and a diatribe by Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke about the state of the NHL.
• Matchup: Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 1:08 p.m. today, Tampa Bay Times Forum.
• TV, radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Dwayne Roloson for Lightning.
• Penguins: Halted six-game losing streak Friday, 4-1, at Florida. ... Are 6-5-1 vs. Southeast Division. ... Have outshot past eight opponents.
• Lightning: Extended losing streak to six games Friday, 4-3, at Washington. ... Are 3-6 vs. Northeast Division. ... Steven Stamkos has goals in seven of his past nine games and, going into games Saturday, led the NHL with 30.
• Hidden stat: Defenseman Brooks Orpik has 25 hits over his past three games and leads Penguins with 124.
MacIntyre spoke before he was put on and cleared waivers last week, although he was visibly bothered by a change that he knew could affect him as it has longtime friend Orr.
"I am one of those guys that is on the bubble, outside looking in. ... It could be me tomorrow," MacIntyre said in what turned out to be foreshadowing.
MacIntyre, signed by the Penguins as a free agent last summer, played in 10 games before he was put on waivers. He had no points, averaged just 2 minutes, 33 seconds of ice time, had no fights, one minor penalty.
He said he agreed with some of what Burke said, particularly that a lack of accountability provided by enforcers has led to "rats" being a predominant force in the game.
"I don't agree totally with the old-school mentality, but there's got to be some kind of accountability," MacIntyre said, adding that he sees some players being bolder about going after opponents while others are wary of clean but heavy contact for fear of a suspension.
"What are we going to do? How are we going to do this?" he asked. "Do we go with the guys that are little rats and just run around with their big sticks and hide behind their [face] shields? They know they don't have to pay the price [on the ice].
"It's one thing coming from [NHL disciplinarian Brendan] Shanahan [in the form of a suspension], and it's another thing coming from the fear of having a guy come out there and punch you in the nose. There's no confrontation."
MacIntyre would like to see the instigator penalty rescinded so enforcers could confront an opponent who takes liberties with a teammate.
"Right now, I'm kind of scratching my head and trying to figure out what's going on," he said.
Penguins center and captain Sidney Crosby joined his teammates on the ice for practice Saturday -- he looked strong skating, shooting and passing -- but it was not an indication that he had taken another step overnight in his recovery from concussion symptoms.
There were logistics such as time constraints at the Lightning's practice facility that did not allow him to skate separately, and the practice did not pose a danger to him.
"It was a non-contact [session]," coach Dan Bylsma said.
Crosby skated Friday for the first time since leaving the lineup again in early December. There is no timetable for his return.
The only player missing from practice was center Evgeni Malkin , who was given a rest.
Although the Penguins were mired in a six-game losing streak before their 4-1 win Friday at Florida, Malkin has goals in three of his past four games, has 20 shots over those four games and has been dominant frequently.
Friday, he also impressed Bylsma by showing restraint when he got slashed by the Panthers' Kris Versteeg in the first period.
"One of the plays of the game for me was Evgeni's ability to keep his cool and draw a penalty on Versteeg and [not retaliate]," Bylsma said. "That's not something that our team has been very good at."
First Published January 15, 2012 12:00 am