Oct 20, 2011, 12:11 PM EDT
After spending their first eight games of the season losing players left and right, the Pittsburgh Penguins received some good news on Thursday. Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted that D Brooks Orpik is “officially playing tonight,” meaning the rugged rearguard will make his 2011-12 debut after missing major time with an abdominal hernia.
Orpik’s return couldn’t come at a better time.
Pittsburgh has been decimated by injury — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy and Dustin Jeffrey are all out hurt — while Kris Letang has one game left to serve on his suspension. As such, the Pens have leaned on the few regulars that are available night-to-night.
For example, consider how coach Dan Bylsma allotted his defensive minutes in a 4-2 win over Minnesota on Tuesday: Zbynek Michalek (29:20 of ice time) and Paul Martin (29:04) logged tongue-dragging workloads to compensate for the fact that Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy and Brian Strait were the other available blueliners. Outside of Niskanen, none of those guys had more than 80 games of NHL experience.
[NB: The Pens are thin up front as well, but that didn’t keep Bylsma from playing Steve MacIntyre 23 seconds against Minnesota. Yeah, twenty-three seconds.]
As for the pairings tonight, Bylsma told reporters that Orpik will play alongside Engelland, suggesting the Niskanen-Lovejoy and Martin-Michalek pairings will stay intact. Looks as though Strait is the odd man out, unless the Pens decide to go with seven defensemen.
- Video: Crosby scores goal No. 300 for his NHL career 3
- (Video) McKenzie: ‘Best guess is anywhere from 3-5 games’ for Byfuglien suspension 11
- Byfuglien to have phone hearing for Miller cross-check 44
- Patrick Kane is practicing today 30
- NHL on NBCSN: Flyers won’t fool with Penguins on Rivalry Night 35
- ‘Could’ve broken his neck,’ says Vigneault of Byfuglien cross check on Miller 66
- Video: Byfuglien gets away with ugly cross check, penalized late in Jets loss to Rangers 35
- Video: Lucic scores late winner, Bruins deal crushing blow to Panthers playoff hopes 11
- Video: Ovi becomes sixth player in history to record six 50-goal seasons 18
- ‘Almost like a game seven tonight’ for Bruins, Panthers 15
- ‘Could’ve broken his neck,’ says Vigneault of Byfuglien cross check on Miller (66)
- Minnesota leapfrogs Chicago in the Central Division (65)
- Coyotes ‘win’ against Sabres in OT (58)
- Sabres GM Tim Murray: ‘I think too much about’ McDavid (55)
- Report: Warrant issued for Deveaux’s arrest following Swedish league attack (49)