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Morning Skate Notes: Orpik Returns

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 1:22 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
After sitting out the entire preseason and the first eight games of the regular season, defenseman Brooks Orpik will be making his season debut tonight against Montreal.

“It’s been a long time waiting, that’s for sure,” he said following the Penguins’ morning skate. “It was tough. But the guys played really, really well through a lot of adversity with guys out, so hopefully I can step back in and it’s not too big a distraction.”

Orpik had been rehabbing from the lower abdominal/hernia surgery he underwent on his right side in July, the same procedure done on his left side in 2010.

It’s the type of injury that requires a lot of patience during the healing process, and with the Penguins’ jam-packed October schedule (eight games in 13 days), Orpik’s return was delayed longer than he originally hoped.

“It’s still a little achy here and there but I think it’s as good as it’s going to get,” he explained. “You’ve got things you’ve got to work through. Just manage it so it doesn’t go backwards at all.”

Orpik’s return couldn’t come at a better time, as the Penguins will be missing Kris Letang, one of their other top defensemen, who is serving the second of a two-game suspension. They’ll also be without Brian Strait, who sustained a hyper-extended elbow against Minnesota after being called up that morning.

However, Orpik stressed that the Penguins did not rush his return.

“Ray (Shero) was really good with me,” he said. “I think he asked me about five times if I was (rushing it). He said just be patient with it, we don’t want to rush you here at all. So they were really good about that. They would have just called someone else up if that was the case.”

It will take some time for Orpik to get reacquainted with the speed and physicality of the NHL, so the Penguins plan on easing him back in. Head coach Dan Bylsma said he’ll have Orpik with Deryk Engelland to start, but that he’ll also see time with Matt Niskanen and Ben Lovejoy. The shutdown pairing of Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek will stay intact.

“It takes a veteran and mentally strong veteran to play a game given the fact that he hasn’t had a preseason and hasn’t been in a game yet,” Bylsma said. “He’s going to have to hit the ground running in terms of being able to play and execute. Keeping it simple and being responsible defensively might mean not running around or being that physical tonight and play that type of game. Responsible and simple with the puck.

“I don’t know what his workload will be, but I’m not looking to stress it too greatly.”

BATTERED WARRIOR

When Craig Adams walked into the Penguins’ locker room following their morning skate on Thursday, he had a bleeding cut on the side of his nose – which complemented the stitches holding together the gash just above his eyebrow.

The diminutive forward, who led all Penguins forwards with 64 blocked shots in 2010-11, took a puck to the face during morning skate after sustaining the eyebrow cut against Washington on Oct. 13.

He was a little shaken up afterward, getting some attention from athletic trainer Chris Stewart, but is totally fine.

“Usually those things go in bursts,” he commented wryly on the state of his battered mug. “Right now, I’m having a tough time getting out of the way of certain things. Hopefully, this will be it for a while.”
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