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Conner, Johnson headed back to Baby Pens

Re-assignments to the AHL of forwards Chris Conner and Nick Johnson on Tuesday were certainly not a reflection of their work while with the Penguins. And the moves might not indicate injured wingers Max Talbot and Bill Guerin will play Thursday against Ottawa at Mellon Arena.

Conner, who scored twice Monday in a win at the New York Rangers, and Johnson, who tallied once in three games dating his first NHL promotion last week, cannot remain with the Penguins without considerable roster-management risk.

The issue is salary-cap space; specifically, that Penguins would have very little with Conner, Johnson, Talbot and Guerin on the active roster. The Tribune-Review estimates the Penguins would be within $100,000 of the NHL's $56.8 upper-salary limit with Conner and Johnson combing to count about $500,000 against the cap.

Talbot (undisclosed/lower-body) and Guerin (undisclosed) combine to count $3,050,000 against the cap, and that hit holds unless they are placed on a long-term injury list. Given the short-term nature of their injuries, that option is not one the Penguins likely would consider.

The Penguins prefer to keep close to $1 million in cap space free at all times for general manager Ray Shero to consider potential trades, though none are known to be in the works. At the March 3 trade deadline, $1 million in cap space would prorate to $4 million over the final quarter of the regular season.

The salary cap is not in-play during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

DIGITS

9 — Games since Jordan Staal, Ruslan Fedotenko or Mike Rupp have scored a goal; the Penguins are 6-3-0 in those contests

55 — Percentage of potential points earned by the Penguins since they claimed 78.6 percent of possible points in October

QUOTABLE

"It's definitely felt like... there's been no rhythm. Win one here, lose one, win one and lose one. It's tough to play that way in this league with how competitive it is." — Defenseman Brooks Orpik, on the Penguins having won consecutive games just twice since Dec. 21.

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