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Pens bring up McDonald; Michalek a game-time call

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek was injured while blocking a shot in practice Thursday and his status for Friday night's game against the first-place New York Rangers will be decided at game time.
Michalek did not take part in the morning skate Friday. The Penguins have not disclosed the nature of his injury.
There was one new face on the Consol Energy Center ice -- forward Colin McDonald, who was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL). McDonald played his only two previous NHL games for Edmonton in 2009-10, scoring one goal. He was chosen earlier this week for the AHL All-Star Classic in Atlantic City.
McDonald was leading the AHL Penguins in assists (20), points (28) and plus-minus rating (plus-15).
McDonald had 42 goals at Oklahoma City last season, which Bylsma said is a testament to his versatility and his ability to generate offense despite not being a gifted scorer.
"He's a gritty guy that plays a good up-and-down wing game. He's good in the tough areas around the net," Bylsma said. "He's a really solid player. He played in defensive situations, (has been) a reliable winger in the past in his career. We'll see him in a third-, fourth-line role, but also as a net-front on the power play."
The Rangers are first overall in the NHL with 54 points after beating the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Thursday night, and they're streaking with three consecutive victories and eight in their last nine games. As a result, the Penguins are facing a potentially pivotal game, especially for the first week of January.
Pittsburgh, which has dropped two in a row after winning four straight, will fall behind the Rangers by 10 points in the Atlantic Division race should they lose in regulation. While that's hardly an insurmountable deficit, the Penguins understand they can't fall too far behind, especially with no assurance that star Sidney Crosby (concussion) will return any time soon.
Crosby, who last played a month ago Friday, remains sidelined with concussion-related problems. He is working out lightly, but is apparently not staking.
Pittsburgh is having the same problem against the Rangers that they are with the Philadelphia Flyers -- beating them on home ice. While the Flyers are 4-0 in Pittsburgh since Consol Energy Center opened last season, the Rangers are 3-0 going into the first of their three games there this season. The Rangers also return on Feb. 21 and April 5.
The Penguins went into the game with only a three-point advantage over Winnipeg, which began the weekend in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Penguins' likely lineup for the first of their three consecutive home games; they also play the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday:
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Richard Park - Matt Cooke
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Colin McDonald
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland
Marc-Andre Fleury, whose 2.26 goals-against average is lower than that of his career-best 2.32 of last season, will be in net. Fleury is 18-11-7 with two shutouts and a 2.83 goals-against average against the Rangers during his career. Brent Johnson will be the backup.
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