Pens Push: The smart move to keep injured players back, and details from a new Pens book.


A quick update, dear readers, as the Penguins get set to play in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the first time since 1996:

= First, I’m not there. Neither is my trusted partner-in-crime Josh Yohe. Turns out that Trib sports columnist Dejan Kovacevic is a huge fan of Winnipeg and requested this trip. I suggest asking him about this love affair via Twitter. He is at @Dejan_Kovacevic … also, his latest blog entry can also be found here:

= So, in case you haven’t heard, Trib colleague Andrew Conte has a book coming out about the Penguins. A news reporter writing about the Penguins? Trust me, he and the book are legit. It’s called “Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Rebirth,” and over the next few blogs I’m going to share some reasons why you should rush a store and look for it. Here is the first:

Chapter 3: Goes into detail about what was happening inside the Penguins’ organization when the Crosby lottery was taking place, including insights on William “Boots” del Biaggio III (pg. 50), who had a purchase agreement for the team.

 Andy and I teamed for nine months during the 2006-07 season to work on the Penguins’ arena dealings for the Trib, and as I’ve said before I learned more from him over that time than I have any other reporter. So it will be my distinct honor to interview him Tuesday night at the official book party release at TGI Friday’s at Consol Energy Center. The show gets underway at 6 p.m., and it’s open to the public. Some topic he’ll be discussing:

 How that story we worked on together became this book – specifically, the process that went into one story, which was very politics heavy, turning into another, which is a behind-the-scenes look that Penguins fans will find fascinating regarding ownership and management.

  • The moments, while reporting for this book, that really surprised Andy, and how it shaped his book narrative.
  • The foray into the sports world, which was a totally new experience for Andy, who is one of the Trib’s best investigative reporters. He’s used to shaking out information from people; but talking to the athletes is something that is completely different, and many of Andy’s experiences in doing that will be interesting to fans who are interested in what it’s like to be asking questions to these larger-than-life hockey players.
  • His interview with Malkin, which provided Malkin his first real opportunity to open up about his departure from the Russian national team. I thought I knew Malkin well before reading some of his comments in this book, and Andy will be going into that in great detail.
  • Time pending, we might talk about the night I tried to step in front of an SUV to get comments from the Penguins after their first meeting with public officials. (Of course, I’m a bit hesitant to give any of my “fans” any ideas.)

 For more information on Andy’s book log onto


= As you know by now, none of the injured players (Cs Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Dustin Jeffrey, and D Brooks Orpik) made this trip, which continues Tuesday at Minnesota. I’ve received some Twitter/email questions about what this mean, but I really think everybody is overreacting. It means that none of those players were going to play in these two games, and with the team likely holding an optional game-day practice on Tuesday, each player could receive better treatment in Pittsburgh. Also, if they want to skate, well, there is ice at Consol Energy Center and that foursome could probably push each other pretty well, no?

As for Malkin – hey, I’m the one who endorsed him not going. As I blogged after a loss to Buffalo on Saturday night, all the indications I’m getting is that scar tissue has flared on his surgically repaired right knee. People are second-guessing his decision to play Thursday against Washington, but I won’t. That game, given what it meant symbolically globally for his fellow Russians, was something special for Malkin. Also, he had taken several days of rest before it.

With Malkin there is probably going to be a few months of give (him a spot in the lineup) and take (him out of the lineup) because of the nature of his recovery. This isn’t the NFL, where a player returning from knee-ligament surgery can sit out practices all week, pull it together once a week for four hours, and then repeat that process over the course of five months. The Penguins – yes, I know I’ve mentioned this before – are playing practically every other day for the opening five weeks of the season. If Malkin is sore he shouldn’t play. When he feels OK, he should. This, it seems, is the process until he starts feeling like his old self – and it may take a couple of months.

Again, fans should want Malkin and Crosby and Orpik (and Jeffrey, trust me) ready for April, not mid-October or early-November. The Penguins are going to make the playoffs. The whole regular season should be about trying to get them healthy when those real games begin.

= That said, if asked about Orpik, I’d tell you I’m a bit worried. I keep referring to his injury as a re-aggravation of an abdominal injury that required surgery. I’m doing that because Orpik said during the last days of training camp that he pushed himself too hard in camp’s first practice. Maybe it’s more of a tweak than a re-aggravation, but in either case, the word I’m getting is that real caution will be used going forward.

Remember, Orpik hasn’t been healthy in either of the past two postseasons, and while a lot of attention gets paid to other reasons the Penguins didn’t advance past Round 2 in either of those series, nobody should diminish what a healthy Orpik brings. He is, respectfully, the team’s best defensive defenseman, and really the team’s only physical presence on the back end. They need him to be able to bring all of that in April, because even with the “Big Three” centers and G Marc-Andre Fleury, I’m don’t envision these Penguins realizing their full potential this spring if Orpik isn’t able to skate, hit and direct as he does so well for the defense corps.