Penguins Notebook: Whitney practices, hopes to return by Christmas
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Several Penguins have said recently that they need a few good practices to get their game in sync and, in the process, to pull out of the 1-4 skid that has bumped them down the Atlantic Division standings.
But because they played seven games during an 11-day stretch that culminated in a 6-3 loss Saturday in Philadelphia, coach Michel Therrien decided that rest had to be a priority, too, and made yesterday's practice at Southpointe optional.
Still, 10 players -- forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Eric Godard and Tim Wallace, defensemen Ryan Whitney, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski and goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Dany Sabourin -- went on the ice with assistant coaches Andre Savard and Mike Yeo and goalie coach Gilles Meloche for the better part of an hour.
The most significant participant might have been Whitney, who has not played this season while recovering from foot surgery.
He reiterated that he would like to get into a game before the two-day Christmas break, although he has not been involved in any contact drills yet.
Whitney downplayed the chances of returning when the Penguins visit Atlanta Thursday and said he would be wary of playing on consecutive days -- the Penguins will do that Monday, when they visit Buffalo, and Tuesday, when Tampa Bay visits Mellon Arena -- so the home game against the Lightning a week from tonight has emerged as the favorite for his comeback.
A potential benefit to playing in that game: Because the Penguins will not practice or play on Dec. 24 and 25, per the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, Whitney will have a good opportunity to determine whether getting back into the lineup produces any significant pain or other problems.
Right winger Petr Sykora, who recorded his first career hat trick in the Penguins' 9-2 victory against the New York Islanders Thursday, was named the NHL's No. 2 star of the week.
Sykora finished behind Boston right winger Phil Kessel and ahead of Buffalo winger Thomas Vanek.
He had three goals and five assists in four games during the course of the week. Sykora entered the New York game with 282 career goals, the most of any active player who did not have a hat trick on his resume.
Fleury and Sabourin used the workout to begin breaking in new sets of leg pads designed to be used when the Penguins wear their blue alternate sweaters, which will happen next when Toronto visits Mellon Arena at 7:08 p.m. Saturday.
The pads are supposed to have a "throwback" appearance, although their base color falls somewhere between caramel and Dijon mustard rather than the dark brown that prevailed during the Penguins' early years in the NHL.
Both goalies said that the pads should be broken in sufficiently after a couple of practices.
First Published December 16, 2008 12:00 am