Penguins' Fedotenko could get playoff hook

| Friday, April 16, 2010

One of Dan Bylsma's nicknames is "Disco," but perhaps "Captain Hook" best suits the Penguins coach.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are down 1-0 in their best-of-seven series against the Ottawa Senators. They face a crucial Game 2 on Friday night at Mellon Arena, and Bylsma appears ready to yank a healthy regular wing from the lineup for the second consecutive postseason.

If Ruslan Fedotenko is the new Petr Sykora, then Bylsma will have made an early move that should sound an alarm for any Penguins player whom the coach deems isn't prepared to play in the playoff pressure cooker.

Any forward not named Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Jordan Staal is subject to sitting.

"You have to know your message, be real clear, get it to the right people the right way — and you have to be able to re-enforce it as well," Bylsma said Thursday after practice at the Igloo.

Scratching Fedotenko, who scored seven of his 20 career playoff goals last spring for the Penguins, would re-enforce that the Penguins need to perform with more efficiency, patience and determination in the offensive zone.

Fedotenko was not a regular on line rushes during practice Thursday. Pascal Dupuis and Alexei Ponikarovsky worked the wings on Malkin's line, and Fedotenko worked off-rushes with wing Eric Godard, who did not dress for any playoff games last spring.

Game-time decisions are a way of life in the playoffs for NHL coaches, but Bylsma did not dismiss the likelihood of forward Mike Rupp replacing Fedotenko for Game 2. In fact, he suggested Rupp's often nasty style could work as a nice deterrent against a Senators club that Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said made Game 1 "not very fun" because of their willing physicality.

"As defensemen, when you (go) back for pucks and you're constantly getting hit ... that wears you down in a hurry in a seven-game series," Orpik said.

Rupp was a healthy scratch in the Penguins' 5-4 loss. He said he would cherish a chance to provide pause to Ottawa's hard-charging third- and fourth-line forwards, who are set on pounding the Penguins' puck-moving defense corps into submission.

"I've made it pretty evident what I do every night — chip pucks in, try to establish the forecheck. There's nothing cute coming from my end," Rupp said. "If I get the opportunity, I'm just going to try and help the team establish some offensive-zone time and move some bodies around."

Added Bylsma: "There's a physical aspect, and when you talk about what Mike has brought to our team and can bring to our team ... he's created offense, zone time, big hits, being that guy with speed through the neutral zone and being a guy who's a crashing, big body."

Bylsma's brief history as coach includes a gut-check benching of Sykora during the second round of last year's playoffs. Sykora had been center Evgeni Malkin's regular right wing for two seasons. But with the Penguins down, 2-0, to Washington in the second round and Malkin needing a spark, Bylsma scratched Sykora, who did not return until Game 6 of the Cup Final.

Sykora and Bylsma were teammates with Anaheim, so there is little reason to believe Bylsma would develop cold feet about sitting Fedotenko, who struggled in the regular season. He had only 11 goals but owns a reputation as a playoff performer.

Fedotenko played less than 11 minutes in Game 1. He did not register a shot, though he was credited with five hits.

Ponikarovsky was no more impressive with only two hits and just a shot. That was his first playoff game since 2004, though he offered no excuses for a disappointing postseason debut with the Penguins.

"You should be able to get into it quicker than I did — especially physically," he said. "It's hard to say that I've never been in this situation because I haven't been in the playoffs in (six) years. ... I don't think it takes any time to prepare yourself emotionally and mentally to play in the playoffs."

If he isn't prepared for Game 2, perhaps Ponikarovsky will be Captain Hook's next victim.

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