Penguins Notebook: Roberts will plead case to coach
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Apparently, all that is separating Gary Roberts from a return to the ice is a convincing sales job.
The Penguins' winger said after practicing with the team yesterday at Southpointe that he is ready to play in the regular-season finale tomorrow at Philadelphia. He has been out since Dec. 29 with a broken left leg and high ankle sprain after collecting 15 points in 37 games.
Roberts, 41, will present his case to coach Michel Therrien after practice today.
"Through his career, he always has the reputation of elevating his game during the playoffs," Therrien said.
"But, for him, he hasn't played in more than three months. It's not easy for any athletes, even if they're young, to come back. So imagine a guy like that. So I want to see how he feels. He looks really good right now."
The rugged and fierce player could be a valuable addition tomorrow considering the aggressive style the Flyers displayed Wednesday in a 4-2 Penguins win at Mellon Arena.
"If I do get in there [tomorrow], it would be a fun game to play in," Roberts said.
Flyers winger Scott Hartnell was particularly aggressive Wednesday, specifically against Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who has a cut on his lip.
Therrien put out a call for the officials to take charge should things get rough again tomorrow -- especially if Philadelphia has no playoff spot or seeding on the line.
"We want to make sure that the referees will call the right penalties," Therrien said, citing concern over situations like one that arose Thursday, when Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson got a head injury on a hit from Toronto's Mark Bell. The Maple Leafs had been eliminated from the playoffs.
"You don't want to see that happen just before the playoffs by a team that's out of the playoffs with nothing to lose," Therrien said. "They've got a responsibility not only to protect the Crosbys, the [Evgeni] Malkins, the [Marian] Hossas, but the rest of the players. They're important."
It's possible the Penguins won't have positioning on the line, either. If Montreal fails to get at least a point tonight against Toronto, the Penguins will clinch the Eastern Conference title.
Therrien declined to say whether he might rest some of his regulars.
Asked about the NHL scoring race, Malkin initially conceded the championship to Washington's Alex Ovechkin.
"I lose," said Malkin, who has 106 points, six behind Ovechkin's 112. Each has a game left.
Then, Malkin smiled. If Ovechkin is held scoreless at home against Florida tonight, a huge game tomorrow might at least give Malkin a share of the title with his fellow Russian.
"Three goals, three assists," Malkin said, smiling even wider.
Ovechkin would need an eight-point game tonight to match Crosby's league-best 120 last season.
The Penguins consider themselves fortunate to have a three-day break between the win Wednesday and the game tomorrow this close to the playoffs, especially when it meant a full day off for everyone Thursday.
"It's our last day off probably for a little while," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "It was good to be able to recharge."
Some joined winger Georges Laraque on an outing to play ball hockey with children.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury set out to go shoe shopping but instead ended up at IKEA.
"It was good for the body, just relax, and mentally just to get out of the rink," Fleury said. "Hopefully, we're going to be at the rink for the next two months."
Whitney enjoyed the mundane.
"I slept in," he said. "I was able to clean the apartment, get errands done, just do little things that you don't get done when you're playing every other day.
"Let's hope we're here 'til June and my apartment's filthy."
Crosby the firefighter?
Several Pittsburgh firefighters attended practice and afterward presented a custom No. 87 helmet to Crosby, who has said firefighting would have been a possible career choice if hockey had not worked out.
First Published April 5, 2008 12:00 am