By Brian Metzer
The Penguins get back on the ice Sunday afternoon against the Florida Panthers in a 1:00 pm affair that will have two more valuable Eastern Conference points on the line. The quest for those points will be bolstered by the fact that they will get yet another wounded bird back in the flock.
Brooks Orpik, who broke a finger 13-games ago against the San Jose Sharks, will make his triumphant return to the line-up against the Panthers. Orpik has been practicing with the team and said earlier in the week that his conditioning was pretty much where it was when he left the line-up. His main concern was getting his timing back. He talked a bit more this afternoon about the difference between coming back from a broken finger and other lower body injuries.
“I’ve had knee injuries before,” said Orpik. “With that you can’t stay in shape. With this at least you can stay in shape and as soon as it’s healed you can get right back in there right away. It’s never not frustrating being hurt. But with this you can at least take something positive out of this.”
There is no word on who will be coming out of the line-up to accommodate Orpik, but he will rejoin Kris Letang on the top pairing. My guess is that Deryk Engelland will be the guy who is headed to the press box, but we shall see.
Orpik’s return isn’t the only exciting news about tomorrow’s Pens/Panthers game… the team will also present it’s annual team awards. I am not sure why they moved the ceremony up ahead of the final home game, but I assume it is to do timing as they the night tends to go a bit long with the awards and the annual “Shirts Off Our Backs” promotion.
Awards include Most Valuable Player, Players’ Player, Defensive Player, Booster Club Cup, Media Good Guy, Masterton Trophy Nominee and Community Service.
My predictions for the awards are as follows:
Community Service: Sidney Crosby – Though the Penguins captain has been out of the line-up, his charitable presence is felt on a nightly basis at the CEC in the form of his luxury suite that is donated to a different charitable organization each night. He is also the first Penguin in line for any and all charitable events that the team participates in. Other candidates: Max Talbot, Eric Godard
Masterton Trophy Nominee: Jordan Staal – Staal has overcome plenty of adversity, having gone out during last year’s playoffs with a lacerated tendon in his foot. He also had many a pitfall during his comeback this season.
Media Good Guy: Marc Andre Fleury – on a team of media friendly players, MAF is by far the most accommodating. Other Candidates: Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik
Booster Club Cup: (off hand I do not have a total of who was selected as one of the Three Stars of the Game the most…so… guess time!) Marc Andre Fleury Other Candidates: Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz
Defensive Player: Kris Letang – He has had an amazing break out season on the blue line for the Penguins. Not only has he been amongst the leading defensive scorers in the league, but he has logged upwards of thirty minutes a night for the team. Other Candidates: Zbynek Michalek, Brook Orpik
Players’ Player: Chris Kunitz – He has been invaluable this season. He has been a leader, a good influence on the youngsters and a glue guy that has held the team together during the run of injuries. Other candidates: Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin
Most Valuable Player: Marc Andre Fleury – Sidney Crosby would have been a lock, but even though his first half was remarkable, no one has been more valuable to this team than Fleury. Other candidates: Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz