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Posted On Saturday, 12.27.2014 / 1:14 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Capitals at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Two familiar faces will step on the Consol Energy Center ice when Washington Capitals defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Orpik and Niskanen will play against their former team for the first time since signing with the Capitals during free agency. Orpik was the Penguins’ most-tenured player prior to his departure with 703 games played for Pittsburgh, a team-record for a defenseman. He played each of his first 11 NHL seasons in Pittsburgh since being drafted in the first round of the 2000 NHL Draft.

“I had nothing but good memories here,” Orpik said. “Obviously the last couple years were disappointing, with the way we finished, but that was just the hockey side of things. Away from some of the disappointing endings that we had, I have nothing but good memories here.

“Hopefully, the fans reciprocate those feelings.”

Posted On Saturday, 12.20.2014 / 11:41 AM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Panthers at Penguins

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins’ defensive corps continues to thin.

Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will not play against the Florida Panthers at Consol Energy Center on Saturday, and the ensuing two games, after exiting Pittsburgh’s game against the Colorado Avalanche with an undisclosed injury on Thursday. Defenseman Paul Martin was also absent during the Penguins’ morning skate.

Posted On Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 12:16 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Avalanche at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby will play against the Colorado Avalanche at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Crosby missed Pittsburgh’s past three games with the mumps. He participated in the Penguins morning skate on Thursday in order to test how he felt and said he felt well following the skate, but would talk with the medical staff before determining if he would play.

“When I saw that picture, that's not what I looked like before I went on the ice,” Crosby said of a photo that circulated on Twitter of him with a swollen cheek. “It was just one of those things, we were well aware of it. Everyone did the right things to try to keep me and everyone else as protected as you can be. But it's just something that sometimes you can't do anything about it.”

Posted On Monday, 12.15.2014 / 1:10 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Lightning at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Two of the Eastern Conference's best teams will meet in Pittsburgh on Monday, but one won't have a full arsenal.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without forward Sidney Crosby when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN). Crosby will miss his third consecutive game after it was announced Sunday he had been diagnosed with the mumps.

"It's just weird," forward Brandon Sutter said. "He had a few things going on last week, and when you saw him you knew something was up. But like [team doctor Dharmesh Vyas] said, he went through the test before and didn't show anything. Just kind of a weird series of events."

Crosby is past the infectious stage of the disease and is expected to return to skating Tuesday or Wednesday, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday. But Rutherford said forward Beau Bennett, who has missed nine games with a lower-body injury, is showing symptoms of the mumps and has been quarantined.

Bennett's test results are expected back Tuesday, Rutherford said.

Posted On Friday, 12.12.2014 / 4:12 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Flames at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will get two key players back but be without their superstar when they face the Calgary Flames at Consol Energy Center on Friday.

Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist (undisclosed) and defenseman Kris Letang (groin) are expected to play against Calgary after each participated in Pittsburgh's morning skate Friday. Letang and Hornqvist, who also practiced Thursday, missed five and two games respectively, which added to an already lengthy injury list.

Forwards Chris Kunitz (foot fracture), Beau Bennett (lower body) and Pascal Dupuis (blood clot) have each missed significant time, and defenseman Olli Maatta did not play against the New York Rangers on Tuesday because of an upper-body injury.

Without Hornqvist and Kunitz, Pittsburgh has struggled to generate goals from around the crease. Penguins coach Mike Johnston said he hopes they can influence the rest of the lineup when healthy.

"We've got two of the best, as I talked about earlier in the season, in Kunitz and Hornqvist around the net," Johnston said. "I think a lot of our players can learn from them. How they play in front of the net. How they're good at not only setting a screen, but at times, providing a stick for deflections."

Posted On Friday, 12.12.2014 / 4:10 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

Penguins' Crosby to miss next two games with illness

PITTSBURGH -- Forward Sidney Crosby will miss the Pittsburgh Penguins next two games after saying he was healthy enough to play against the Calgary Flames on Friday.

Crosby participated in Pittsburgh's morning skate at Consol Energy Center after missing practice on Thursday with an undisclosed illness. Crosby and Penguins coach Mike Johnston each said Crosby felt well enough to play against the Flames following the morning skate.

Medical specialists made a recommendation to sit Crosby over the weekend, against the Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, after further tests came back Friday, according to a release on the Penguins website.

"There is no indication at this time that this is the mumps, but we are going to hold him out as a precaution," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. "We'll have additional test results in a few days."

Posted On Saturday, 12.06.2014 / 11:38 AM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Senators at Penguins

PITTSBURGHPittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist will not play against the Ottawa Senators at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Hornqvist, who did not participate in Pittsburgh’s practice on Friday, will continue to be evaluated for an apparent upper-body injury sustained during the second period of the Penguins’ 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. An update to his status could be provided on Sunday.

Hornqivst ranks second on Pittsburgh with 11 goals, one less than Evgeni Malkin, and third with 25 points, behind Sidney Crosby and Malkin.

Posted On Thursday, 12.04.2014 / 12:44 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Canucks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will adjust their defensive pairings against the Vancouver Canucks (7 p.m. ET, SN360) on Thursday at Consol Energy Center with suspended defenseman Robert Bortuzzo out of the lineup.

Bortuzzo received a two-game suspension Wednesday from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a late hit on New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh held an optional skate Thursday morning, but it is expected defenseman Brian Dumoulin will enter the lineup and potentially play alongside Christian Ehrhoff. Paul Martin with Olli Maatta and Simon Despres with Rob Scuderi are the other probable defensive pairings.

"Obviously there's a little bit of nerves, especially playing in the National Hockey League," Dumoulin said. "But having those games last year definitely helps me know. Knowing some of the guys around the room has made me more comfortable. ... You can't think too much out there. It's really just about keeping my game simple."

Posted On Tuesday, 12.02.2014 / 7:17 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Devils at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby is in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, but forward Chris Kunitz is not.

Crosby, along with defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, did not participate in Pittsburgh’s morning skate at Consol Energy Center because of undisclosed illnesses. Each player took the ice for the Penguins’ warm-ups on Tuesday.

Kunitz, who has scored nine goals and 20 points in 23 games, filled in for Crosby as the top-line center as well as the second-line left wing during the skate but did not take part in warm-ups. He has an unspecified injury.

Forward Jayson Megna will play in Kunitz’s position, next to center Evgeni Malkin and right wing Blake Comeau on the second line. Crosby will skate between left wing Nick Spaling and right wing Patric Hornqvist. Bortuzzo will be paired with defenseman Paul Martin.

The Penguins are without defenseman Kris Letang, who will miss a second consecutive game after sustaining a lower-body injury late against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. Letang did not play against Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., the next night and Johnston labeled him as day-to-day.

Posted On Friday, 11.28.2014 / 12:47 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Hurricanes at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will enter a home-and-home series against a Metropolitan Division rival for the second consecutive weekend on Friday.

The Penguins will face the Carolina Hurricanes at Consol Energy Center before travelling to Raleigh for a second matchup a day later. Pittsburgh played consecutive games against the New York Islanders a week ago, when they went 0-1-1.

The Hurricanes are one point out of the division’s basement and don't seem to pose as much of a threat as New York, which is tied with the Penguins atop the division, but Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said Carolina should not be taken lightly.

"They're a quick team, for sure," Johnston said. "And it's a combination of preparing, as we have done with other teams, preparing for Carolina, but also, as we did this morning, reviewing our game. And we have to get our game moved up in a couple areas. So, each week basically, we're taking two or three areas and saying this is what we have to focus on as a team and this is what our opponent does.

"And they are a quick team. They're a quick team down low below the dots. They bring pucks to the net. They spin off checks really well down low there."

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Quote of the Day

You could feel it. You could feel that they were going after each other and trying to win the game for their team.

— Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom on Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, in which Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby each scored hat tricks
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