Penguins Notebook: Playoff spot is clinched on night off for team
Share with others:
Even with a night off, the Penguins clinched a playoff berth Saturday. Carolina, the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference, lost to Tampa Bay, 4-2, ensuring that the Penguins will have a spot in the postseason.
The only mystery now is what the Penguins' first-round matchup will be which team the Penguins will play in the first round.
The Penguins are fourth in the East with 96 points. They can only move up if they overtake Atlantic Division and conference leader Philadelphia. The Flyers beat the New York Islanders, 4-1, to climb to 100 points and have a game in hand on the Penguins.
If they finish fourth, the Penguins will have home-ice advantage against the No. 5 seed in the East. Tampa Bay sits fifth with 91 points.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik has had a difficult time hiding his impatience while his broken right index finger healed -- , and that wasn't primarilyit wasn't because he struggled doing tasks such as brushing his teeth left-handed.
Orpik has wanted badly to get back in the lineup, and his wait ends today.
Coach Dan Bylsma announced after practice Saturday at Southpointe that Orpik is expected to play against Florida in a matinee at Consol Energy Center.
"It's frustrating being out," Orpik said. "I'm excited. It's been a month of sitting around and skating. It's been a long time, just trying to stay in as good a shape as possible. We just had to make sure it's completely healed so it doesn't set me back anymore."
Orpik was hurt Feb. 23 when he was hit by a shot. Doctors determined that playing before the break healed put Orpik at risk of further damaging the finger, possibly requiring surgery.
He's is a physical defenseman (177 hits) and an alternate captain, and coach Dan Bylsma said his Orpik's skating is underrated. He will skate team with defenseman Kris Letang, an effective pair much of the season.
Where Orpik could make a quick impact is as a penalty-killer. DuringOver Orpik's 13-game absence, the Penguins killed 35 of opponents' 45 power plays. That 77.7 percent success rate is considerably below their season rate of 86.2 percent, which led the NHL going into Saturday's games Saturday.
"Him going out has been an adjustment," Bylsma said of the penalty-killing. "We haven't been as good there."
Bylsma indicated that Deryk Engelland or Ben Lovejoy will be scratched to make room forgive way to Orpik.
Center Mark Letestu returned to practice but is not expected to play today. He sustained what is believed to be a shoulder injury March 15.
"It's getting better," Letestu said. "Strength is something that's still coming. There's still a couple of things that need to be worked out, but I think, for the most part, it's coming along pretty good."
In other injury news, backup goaltender Brent Johnson did not practice and remains day to day because of what is believed to be a neck injury; there was no update on the extent of center Dustin Jeffrey's knee injury; and center Sidney Crosby (concussion) had a scheduled day off from workouts after a rigorous skate Friday.
Letestu skated with Crosby in that session Friday.
"He's still pretty good," Letestu deadpanned about Crosby, who was leading the NHL in scoring when he got hurt in early January.
"He seems to be progressing nicely. Seeing the little things he was working on, his skill set, was unbelievable. It's a lot of fun to be out there and try to compete with him in little puckhandling drills. It's pretty neat."
Winger Alex Kovalev was given the day off from practice. ... Winger Matt Cooke, serving an extended suspension, remains on leave from the team. ... The Penguins will have their annual pregame team awards ceremony today. Gates open at 11:30 a.m., and fans should be in their seats by 1 p.m. The game will start at 1:13. ... Defenseman Joe Rogalski, a 2010 sixth-round draft pick, signed an amateur tryout contract with affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In 63 games in his final junior season with Sarnia, he had seven goals, 32 points.
First Published March 27, 2011 12:00 am