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Penguins' Michalek is due back against Ottawa

Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek is a good bet to return from a concussion Friday in Ottawa.

Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek is a good bet to return from a concussion Friday in Ottawa.

While he returns to the lineup, many around the league will be exiting for the same reason.

The NHL is under siege by a concussion epidemic that continued league-wide Wednesday. It even struck the Michalek family for the second time in two weeks.

Michalek's brother, Milan, who plays for Ottawa and is the NHL's leading goal-scorer with 19, won't play against the Penguins tomorrow because he has been diagnosed with a concussion.

"I spoke with him," Zbynek Michalek said. "He's having some headaches. I think he'll be OK. But you still don't like hearing it."

Michalek knows the feeling. The Penguins defenseman was injured in Montreal on Nov. 26, suffering a slight concussion.

It appears that Michalek will return to the lineup tomorrow, while his brother watches from the press box.

"As long as I don't have symptoms," Michalek said, "I'm hoping to be back in the lineup for Friday."

Carolina forward Jeff Skinner became the latest star player to be removed from the lineup with a concussion yesterday afternoon. He was joined by teammate Joni Pitkanen, who is also dealing with a concussion.

The league's leading scorer, Philadelphia winger Claude Giroux, and the Flyers' star defenseman, Chris Pronger, also have been concussion victims this week.

A number of other star players, including Penguins center Sidney Crosby, defenseman Kris Letang, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and Kings center Mike Richards continue to deal with concussions.

"It's pretty bad right now," Michalek said.

No Staal

Penguins center Jordan Staal played against Detroit on Tuesday, but he clearly wasn't playing at 100 percent. Staal, who missed a game and two practices before the Detroit game, again missed practiced yesterday at Consol Energy Center. Coach Dan Bylsma said there is a chance Staal, who is dealing with a lower-body injury, will play Thursday.

Here's Johnny

Bylsma rarely acknowledges his goaltender rotation in advance but said that backup Brent Johnson will get the start in Ottawa on Friday. Marc-Andre Fleury will start the following night when the Penguins host Buffalo.

Still no Sid

Crosby was in attendance at practice Wednesday and was in good spirits. When he will return to practice, let alone the lineup, remains a mystery.

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