If Penguins fans were wondering just how close defenseman Brooks Orpik is to returning to the lineup he said if the situation were different, he'd be playing.
"If it was the playoffs, I'd be playing tonight," he told NHL.com following Thursday's practice here at the Wells Fargo Center. "Or I'd probably be playing before tonight."
Orpik won't play Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) in Philadelphia against the Flyers, but he's getting closer to playing again for the first time since he broke a finger on his right hand blocking a Patrick Marleau shot Feb. 23 against the San Jose Sharks.
Coach Dan Bylsma said that return could come next week, maybe in time for Tuesday's rematch in Pittsburgh.
Orpik has stayed in shape by skating during his recovery, saying he missed just two or three days, so conditioning won't be an issue.
"He means a lot to our team, especially on the PK," said Kris Letang, his usual partner. "He shuts down top guys every night. The physical aspect of the game, which we don't really have on the back end except for maybe two guys -- I think he can bring a lot. Can't wait to bring him back."
The Pens' top four blueliners -- Letang, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek -- haven't been in the lineup at the same time since Feb. 20. And with eight games left following Thursday's game with the Flyers, it's not coming too soon.
Although with the storm of injuries that has battered the Penguins all season, Orpik remains a cynic.
"We've still got nine games to go," he said. "The way thing are going here this year, who knows?"
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