There’s no doubt that the match-up with the Ottawa Senators in Stockholm, Sweden, was a special experience for the Penguins. But for defenseman Mark Eaton, who hadn't played in a regular-season game in over nine months after tearing ligaments in his right knee, it was extra special.
“There’s the excitement of getting back out there after such a long grueling rehab to test out the knee and know that it’s fine,” Eaton said. “You have the anxiety of being out for so long. It’s kind of bitter sweet.”
His repaired knee faced an early challenge in the two Stockholm contests on back-to-back nights. Eaton, who's last game was since Dec. 23, logged 33:32 of ice time and said his knee held up well.
“It feels good physically, and mentally (there is) no more hesitation,” he said. “I’ve given good hits, taken a couple good hits. It’s not even a mental issue for me now.”
Eaton signed a two-year contract extension with the Penguins in the offseason and has been one of the team’s most reliable defensemen. He’s discipline in his own zone, kills penalties and is a shot blocking specialist, blocking 89 shots in 36 games last season.
This isn’t the first time in Eaton’s career that he's come back from a lengthy rehab. Two years ago, he dislocated his left wrist after being run into the boards by San Jose’s Jonathan Cheechoo. Eaton made a full recovery then and expects to do the same this time around.
I feel strong. It doesn’t take long until you take an awkward hit to test it out and then you realize there are no issues and you’re ready to go. - Mark Eaton
“I feel strong,” he said. “It doesn’t take long until you take an awkward hit to test it out and then you realize there are no issues and you’re ready to go.”>
The Penguins acquired forward Mike Zigomanis from the Phoenix Coyotes for future considerations. The 6-1, 195-pound center has played 167 career NHL games, registering 33 points (19+14). The acquisition puts Pittsburgh against the 23-man roster limit.
Forward Jeff Taffe cleared waivers and will be assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Zigomanis will wear No. 15.>
Pittsburgh’s home opener is this Saturday at 7:38 p.m. against the New Jersey Devils. Though teams’ rosters change every year, the one constant in New Jersey is goalkeeper Martin Brodeur.
“He’s a top goalie in the league,” center Jordan Staal
said. “It’s tough trying to get a goal against him.”
“They rely on (Brodeur) a lot and play a defensive style,” Brooks Orpik
said. “It starts with Brodeur behind them.”
The veteran goalie is entering his 15th NHL season and may own every goaltending record once he retires. Brodeur played in his first NHL game when Pittsburgh goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury
was 8 years old.
“He’s always been one of my favorite goalies,” Fleury said. “To play against him is pretty cool. He’s a guy that I always looked up to as far as how he plays the game.”>
With the injuries to Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar, Orpik was asked if he’ll take a shift on the power play.
“Power play? I don’t know about that,” said the newly appointed alternate captain. “If I do it now it’s because we have so many guys hurt and out of the lineup. It’s something that if they throw you in you have to be ready for but I’m not one of the top candidates in here with all the skill guys we have.”
Orpik was then asked if he played on the power play when he attended Boston College.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That was a long time ago.”>
The injuries have not only affect the power-play unit, but also the defensive pairings. The current combos are Hal Gill-Rob Scuderi, Orpik-Kris Letang and Eaton-Darryl Sydor/Alex Goligoski.
“It takes a little bit of time,” Orpik said. “Communication is the biggest thing. With all the injuries we had last year a lot of the guys are pretty familiar with the guys we’re playing with this year. Alex (Goligoski) is the one new guy trying to make the adjustment but he’s doing pretty well so far.”
Goligoski skated with Eaton in the second game, while Sydor and Eaton teamed up for the first game. Playing with a new partner may be a difficult adjustment, but Eaton downplayed its effect.
“It’s not too much of an adjustment,” Eaton said. “Everyone at this level knows how to play and play the position well. I go about my business.”>
Head Coach Michel Therrien on the Penguins practice:
“I think the guys are pretty sharp. I’m quite surprised. Yesterday, the way they reported after that long road trip, and today I felt the execution was a bit better. That’s what I’m looking for.”>
The Penguins opener against the Devils will be the first game played at Mellon Arena since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 4.
“We haven’t played in front of our home crowd in a while,” Staal said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. Our fans, no question, are one of the best in the league. They always seem to get us going.”>
More than 500 fans attended the annual Chamber of Commerce Penguins Faceoff Luncheon on Thursday afternoon at the Westin Convention Center. The entire team attended the event and fans were treated to a highlight video of the Penguins 2007-08 season.Archive