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Pens' Orpik closer to returning to action

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — There is a chance, albeit a small one, that defenseman Brooks Orpik will play Wednesday night when the Penguins open the season against the Canucks.

Orpik, who had hernia surgery this summer and did not play in any exhibition games, has practiced with the team three times in the past week and reported no lingering issues with the injury.

Although it would register as a surprise if Orpik plays against the Canucks, it would not be a shock.

"I wouldn't say there's zero chance I'll play," Orpik said Wednesday.

He has stressed all along that he won't force the issue with this injury. Given the Penguins' depth on the blue line and the reality that the postseason doesn't begin for another six months, there is hardly a need to force the veteran into the lineup until he's completely healthy.

Still, Orpik made it clear that his return is coming soon. Maybe even tonight.

"You never want to miss opening day," Orpik said.

• A Sidney Crosby appearance in western Canada is always a big deal, even when he's not playing. Crosby practiced with the Penguins on Wednesday and then was swamped by dozens of Canadian reporters. As Crosby has told local reporters for weeks, he continues to feel healthy but isn't sure when he will return. Crosby did shed some light on the timeline of his symptoms, saying he has been symptom-free for "less than a month."

• If Wednesday's practice is any indication, the Penguins will use these line combinations in their season opener: Steve Sullivan-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal, Chris Kunitz-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy; Matt Cooke-Mark Letestu-Pascal Dupuis; Joe Vitale-Craig Adams-Arron Asham. In this alignment, forwards Richard Park and Steve MacIntyre would be healthy scratches.

DIGITS

595 — Number of days since Crosby scored in overtime to win the Olympic gold medal for Canada, which is the last time he appeared in Vancouver

200 — Number of days since Matt Cooke's last NHL game, after which he was suspended for 17 games.

46 — Team owner Mario Lemieux celebrated his 46th birthday yesterday.

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