Rossi: Bennett’s role far from set.


WASHINGTON – On his last trip here, Beau Bennett received some solid advice from Pascal Dupuis, whom he had recently supplanted as the top-line right winger.

That advice: Do not spend so much energy during morning practices on days of games.

That was over three months ago, and now the Penguins’ top line is without either of its two top-line options for the right-wing slot. (Or top three, if counting injured Brian Gibbons – though, nobody outside the organization seems to be counting him, which seems odd given the way this season has gone.)

Dupuis is done after surgery to repair a torn right ACL.

Bennett, though, seems like he is finally on a track toward playing.

Out since Nov. 22 because of a right hand/wrist injury that needed surgery and also time to recover from a setback, Bennett practiced at Verizon Center on Sunday night. After, while breathing heavy, he offered 10 days as a realistic time frame for his return to games.

Coach Dan Bylsma quickly tried to shade that ray of Sunshine by informing that Bennett would be re-evaluated by a team physician next Sunday, and only then would a time frame for return-to-play clearance be known.

Bylsma also downplayed any expectations for Bennett’s eventual return.

“He hasn’t played hockey, so it’s to say he’s going to be a top-line winger,” Bylsma said. “He’s got to get back and play, get back and get into the mix. He’s played very little hockey this year at all; so it’s tough to say, ‘Beau’s going to be on the first power play or on the top line.’ He’s got to get back and be involved in hockey, which he hasn’t been for an awful long time.”


>> Players looked tired Sunday night after traveling to Washington from Anaheim then practicing late. The five-game road trip wraps Monday, though given the Penguins play at home on Tuesday night, the return to Pittsburgh will seem like Game No. 6.


>> Evgeni Malkin’s lack of celebration after scoring at Anaheim on Saturday night was certainly out of character given his arm-wheeling, glass-jumping ways. Whatever the reason, Malkin’s response to that goal concerned Bylsma enough to ask him about the lack of celebration before practice on Sunday night.


>> Tomas Vokoun did not practice Sunday night, instead riding a stationary bicycle while teammates were on the ice. Vokoun, out all season after surgery to dissolve a blood clot, has said that he plans on playing at some point this season. The Penguins seem far from inclined to agree that he is anywhere close to being ready – or if he will be at any point.


>> Under Bylsma, the Penguins have always given a vibe during March ­– not always one that foreshadowed their future.

In 2009: Confident and joyful. They won the Cup.

In 2010: Spent and staggered. They lost in Round 2.

In 2011: Defiant and purposeful. They lost in Round 1, (though while playing without Sidney Crosby and Malkin).

In 2012: Brash and bold. They lost in Round 1.

In 2013: Optimistic and opportunistic. They lost in Round 3.

March is not over yet, but so far the vibe for 2014 feels like: Edgy and uncertain.




>> Brandon Sutter has become a pretty important player for the Penguins:

>> Still, Ryan Kesler remains on their radar:



Be EXCELLENT to each other,