PITTSBURGH -- Could yet another young defenseman be making his Pittsburgh Penguins debut Sunday night?
Joe Morrow, the club's first-round draft choice 20 months ago, was recalled from Pittsburgh's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre-Scranton. The 20-year-old had two goals and eight assists in 39 AHL games in his first season as a pro. In his past nine games, though, Morrow was a plus-5.
"He can skate, he's big, he's a strong guy," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's highlighted for his shot and offensive ability and skating ability -- which is very high-end -- but he's also a big body.
"This game today, if Joe Morrow were to get into the game, you're going to see some power-play time, see some skating ability and see him being able to handle guys down low."
Bylsma said Morrow was recalled for "insurance" because the Penguins' defense corps has "some bumps and bruises." Bylsma, as is his policy, said the lineup for the Sunday evening game against the New Jersey Devils will not be announced until gametime.
Paul Martin was the only healthy defenseman not to participate in what was an optional morning skate Sunday. There was no immediate indication Martin had any injury, and he amassed 28:49 of ice time -- by far a team high -- in Saturday's 3-1 loss at New Jersey. It would not be atypical for Martin to skip an optional skate under such circumstances. (The Penguins' top five forwards, for example, did not take part.)
Brooks Orpik was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in Saturday's game, but it seems highly unlikely he is in danger of being suspended. Orpik said the penalty was for saying something to Devils winger David Clarkson after Clarkson hit him behind the play.
With the team's top pairing of Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen both out with lower-body injuries and Ben Lovejoy traded to the Anaheim Ducks last week, Dylan Reese made his Penguins debut in Thursday's home win against the Washington Capitals. Other defensemen who were with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as recently as last month who are now playing regular shifts for Pittsburgh are Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres.
"They've done a great job," Niskanen said. "Simon Despres has been awesome, Robert Bortuzzo has been really solid, Dylan Reese has done really well in the short time he's been here. It's fun to watch young guys come in and have success ... they'll continue to get better."
To make room for Morrow on the roster, Letang was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Tuesday, when he most recently appeared in a game. He has missed the past two contests.
Morrow was a first-team Western Hockey League All-star last season, when he had 64 points (17 goals, 47 assists) in 62 games and added 17 points in 22 playoff contests. He was the 23rd pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.