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Notebook: Pens Gear Up for Strong Finish

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins headed into the All-Star break riding a seven-game winning streak. And when a team is hot, the last thing it wants is to stop playing.

However, the Penguins have been a banged-up team this season, suffering 248 man-games lost to injuries. And the five days of rest and relaxation was sorely needed for the squad.

“Your body needs that,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “When you’re younger you probably don’t appreciate it as much. Your mind needs it more than anything. The season is so long. You have to give your body a rest over those five days. In the long run you’ll be better off.”

Park, Vitale and Engelland at Monday's practice

Mid-season vaca
Crosby skates with injured teammates

The Pens will have to shake off the rust that comes from a few days of not working. But fortunately, every NHL team is going through the same process.

“It terms of a layoff, every team is in the same situation,” Orpik said. “Everybody is a little different. It’s upon yourself to do what you have to do, and trust that everybody else does the same thing.”

Getting right back on track to their winning ways started with a solid practice on Monday at CONSOL Energy Center.

“You have a good work day (Monday) and morning skate (Tuesday),” forward Matt Cooke said. “You’re right back at it. We’re not that far removed from the six-game losing streak. We know how we have to play and we’ll be ready.”

And with the playoff picture still up for grabs, the Pens know the games and competition will only become tougher as the season draws to a conclusion.

“Everybody knows it’s a push to the end,” forward Chris Kunitz said. “It’s tough to make up points. We had a little falling out before the seven games so we got back to where we were. We still have to get better and play the best teams in the league, and prove we can win against those teams. We have a lot of games to prove ourselves moving forward.”

The Pens held their monthly “Mustache Boy” shootout after practice Monday. And in a stunning upset, the loser was … (drum roll) … goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Per the rules, if a goalie allows four straight goals in the first round of the shootout, then he is dubbed the loser.

The only other time the goalies have lost a shootout was last year when Fleury was forced to wear the ugly Christmas sweater on a road trip. Johnson, being a solid teammate, also wore an ugly sweater in support of his goaltending partner as seen on HBO's 24/7.

And maybe Johnson will join Fleury with some lip hair?

“I’m the loser, I have to wear it,” Fleury said. “But I might get some goalie support. (Brent Johnson) mentioned he might grow one. We’ll see.”

“Today was only the second time they’ve lost the shootout, it happens to be Mustache Boy,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I don’t think ‘Flower’s’ growth will be strong enough to see through the mask. But they are the proud wearers of the February mustache.”

Forward Arron Asham, who’s missed the last six games with a concussion, was not on the ice for Monday’s practice.

Arron Asham is feeling better, but still suffering from symptoms,” Bylsma said.

A few injured Penguins took part in a pre-game skate before the team’s practice. They were forwards Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal (knee) and defenseman Simon Despres (knee). More details on the three men here.

“It was Jordan’s first time on the ice of any significance as he recovers from his knee injury,” Bylsma said. “Simon Despres has been on the ice several times before this and is much closer to practicing than Jordan.

“It’s a little too early to tell you a timetable for Jordan. I’m still comfortable in the 4-6 (weeks) range. We’ll see how he progresses going forward. Today was a positive step for him. I know he was excited about getting back on the ice. That’s a good sign to see him out there. I’d love to see him on the ice tomorrow in full gear, but still 4-6 weeks.”

Bylsma added that he’s waiting until Crosby has seen an independent physician before commenting on his captain’s situation.

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