Penguins Notebook: Short bench was no problem
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As the Penguins were heading to the ice for Sunday's pregame warmup, winger Eric Godard sidled up to defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
"He said he was going to rotate in with the [defensemen]," Lovejoy said. "I didn't understand. I was kind of mad at him."
It turns out Lovejoy had missed the news that Matt Niskanen had come down with a flu-like illness overnight, so the Penguins had to go into their game against Edmonton at Consol Energy Center with just five defensemen. Godard was just offering to help.
The Penguins got by just fine in the short-handed situation, topping the Oilers, 5-1.
"You have to keep short shifts and, if possible, keep in the offensive zone so we don't get tired," defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "I think we did a very good job at it. We don't mind having a little more ice time."
Michalek added more than defense. He scored his second goal as a Penguins player, and second in three games, on a blistering slap shot coming over the blue line in the third period.
Lovejoy, who played 20 minutes, 42 seconds, second most of the season, and added an assist, caught on to the situation and made the most of it.
"As much ice time as I can get is a good thing," he said. "Whenever they let me go on the ice, I'll take it."
Defenseman Kris Letang led all Penguins in ice time with 25:37 despite spending the final five minutes on the bench after absorbing a hit by Edmonton center Gilbert Brule.
Letang, to the left of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, had just gotten off a clearing pass when Brule leveled him with what seemed to be a chin shot. Brule got a charging minor penalty.
"I didn't see it. I don't remember what happened or anything," said Letang, who had a small cut on his left cheek from the edge of his visor and a bruised left eyebrow.
Letang said he was fine. Brule, who also landed on the ice, retired to the locker room.
Edmonton coach Tom Renney said Brule was a bit fuzzy initially but was fine, and he defended the hit.
"I was disappointed with the call, to be honest with you," Renney said. "[Brule] did not come from 40 feet away to hit him. They were straight up with each other. In my mind, Gilbert finished the check.
"This is hockey, and a lot of times it ends with a finished check. In my mind, Letang wasn't quite ready for it."
Michalek had a goal celebration go awry when he threw himself into the glass but ended up on the ice.
"I just went into the boards and lost my edge and fell," he said. "I definitely didn't mean to do that."
Was he perhaps attempting an impersonation of Washington's Alex Ovechkin?
"I don't score often, so I don't really have a celebration like he does," Michalek said. "I was just happy to score again."
The Penguins' top minor league affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, not only leads the American Hockey League with 93 points in 65 games, but has lowered its magic number for clinching a playoff spot to nine.
Any combination of Wilkes-Barre points gained and Worchester points unrealized totaling nine will guarantee the Baby Penguins a spot in the postseason.
Penguins winger Eric Tangradi, who got a concussion Feb. 11 when he was elbowed and then punched by the Islanders' Trevor Gillies, has begun skating with other injured players. ... Penguins winger Matt Cooke assisted on Jordan Staal's second-period goal, giving Cooke 300 NHL points. ... Godard was the Penguins' only healthy scratch. ... Even though their son, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, is out for the season after knee surgery, Vladimir and Natalia Malkin are in town from Russia and received warm cheers from the Consol Energy Center crowd when they were shown on the video screen in the stands during two weekend home games -- in particular when they complied when shown on the arena's "Kiss Cam."
First Published March 14, 2011 12:00 am