Penguins Notebook: Roberts hopes he can play Sunday
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Left winger Gary Roberts hopes to play in the Penguins' regular-season finale Sunday in Philadelphia.
Roberts, out since his leg was broken and he got a high ankle sprain when Buffalo's Tim Connolly fell on him Dec. 29, participated in an optional workout at Mellon Arena yesterday, then went public with his plan.
"I'm just trying to get ready to play, whether it's one game -- maybe on Sunday, if things go well the next few days," he said. "I need a few more days of practice, but it definitely feels better. ... Hopefully, with no setbacks [over] the next few days, maybe I'll play Sunday."
Roberts pronounced himself "pain-free" after practicing but acknowledged he needs more workouts to get ready to play. And that he'd like to get some game action before the playoffs begin next week.
"No one wants to go into the playoffs with no games under their belt," he said. "The pace is pretty good right now. Obviously, I haven't played for three months. I'm doing everything I can, off the ice, to be ready to play, but there's nothing like game conditioning.
"I need to get into some drills in practice, get into some battling drills to make sure I feel comfortable trying to play my game. There's no use me being out there if I can't move around. If I feel like I'm going to be a liability, I won't play."
Defenseman Mark Eaton, whose knee was surgically repaired earlier this season, actually was able to skate, albeit somewhat gingerly, after the Penguins had a team photo taken before practice yesterday.
"I knew [the photo shoot] would give me a chance to test it a little bit," Eaton said. "No point in being stupid [by overdoing it]. Rehab's gone well up to this point. You don't want to go out there and push it too hard."
Eaton added that his knee will be examined again in about 10 days and that he hasn't completely written off playing again this season.
"Hopefully, [the doctor] gives me the green light to pick up the intensity," he said. "I definitely don't rule it out. Rehab has gone well. I'd say I'm ahead of schedule. Five or six weeks from now, I think it will feel great. I'll probably feel close to 100 percent. So you never know."
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was a healthy scratch for four games and was used on left wing -- a position he never had played at any level -- in several others, but began to rehabilitate his image when Rob Scuderi got a badly broken finger Feb. 26.
Orpik not only began to kill penalties for the first time this season, but also ended up alongside Sergei Gonchar on the No. 1 defense pairing. And thrived.
And did it without sacrificing the physical play that might be his greatest asset.
Orpik has a team-high 238 hits -- that's 103 more than Ryan Malone, who ranks second on the Penguins -- and ranked fifth in the league before last night.
The impressive thing is that Orpik has done it while working within a system that does not give him the latitude to step up and look for hits if there's a risk of getting caught out of position.
"You can't really take chances in the neutral zone like I used to," Orpik said. "It's more down low in our own zone, where you can be physical."
Orpik clearly would prefer not to be shackled, but accepts the restraints the Penguins' style imposes.
"He's come a long way in that sense," assistant coach Andre Savard, who oversees the defensemen, said recently. "We certainly want him to continue to play that physical, hitting game, which he's good at."
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, 9-1-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average and .951 save percentage in March, was named the NHL's No. 2 star of the month. Washington left winger Alexander Ovechkin, who had 14 goals and 12 assists in 14 games, was the No. 1 star, and Detroit's Johan Franzen, who scored six game-winning goals in 13 games, was chosen as No. 3. ... Savard was noncommittal about whether rookie defenseman Kris Letang, a healthy scratch for the Penguins' 2-1 shootout loss in New York Monday, will be back in the lineup tonight.
First Published April 2, 2008 12:00 am