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Martin looks to stay with Penguins

| Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 4:18 p.m.
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin chases down the puck agianst the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center Feb. 21, 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
The Penguins' Paul Martin celebrates his goal during the first period against the Flyers Friday April 13, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Center. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Defenseman Paul Martin is unable to articulate why he has struggled after signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the Penguins two years ago.

There is an explanation, though, for his lackluster play in the Stanley Cup playoffs against Philadelphia in April.

He was hurt.

Martin told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday that he played the first three games against the Flyers with concussion-like symptoms. It had been thought that a Game 3 hit from Philadelphia forward Brayden Schenn caused the concussion that forced Martin out for the remainder of the series.

“I wasn't feeling well during Game 1,” Martin said. “But I never said anything to the trainers. I didn't feel well in Game 2. Then, after Schenn hit me in Game 3, I felt really bad but still finished the game. The next night I felt worse. I talked to our trainers then and told them about the symptoms. That was it. They shut me down.”

Martin isn't sure when the injury occurred, only that it must have been in Game 1.

“I don't know what and when it happened,” he said. “But I know something happened. And obviously the Schenn hit didn't help.”

Penguins general manager Ray Shero offered no comment regarding Martin.

Martin said he passed an imPACT test following Game 3 but because of the symptoms was prohibited from playing.

“The whole thing was tough,” he said. “I took a test and supposedly did fine. But with what had happened with Kris (Letang) and with (Sidney Crosby's) problems, I think they were being overly cautious.”

Montreal doctors allowed Letang to return to a November game in Montreal after he was concussed.

Martin is recovered and working out daily in his native Minnesota.

His head feels fine, but the sting from his disappointing first two seasons with the Penguins remains. And he wants to make amends.

“I came to Pittsburgh because I wanted to win,” Martin said. “If you had told me this is where my game would be after a couple of years, I wouldn't have believed it.”

Martin was aware of negative talk from fans and media outlets and admitted that might have affected his performance.

“Coming from New Jersey,” Martin said, “it isn't a fishbowl like Pittsburgh is. All it takes is for someone to write an article, and people can jump on board. It's hard to ignore it. When you're a player, you notice things. I take pride in my job, and when people are telling you that you aren't doing your job well, you don't like it.”

Martin, the subject of trade rumors this offseason, doesn't want to leave the Penguins.

“I know there are going to be rumors about me and Z (defenseman Zbynek Michalek),” Martin said. “I've talked with Z. We both want to stay. We both went to Pittsburgh because we wanted to win, and we still want that. I love the city. I love the passion of the fans. I love the team. It's on me to play better, and I realize that.”

Martin realizes the trade rumors won't disappear this summer.

“I'd be lying if I said I don't think about them,” Martin said. “Do I think the same team is going to be back in Pittsburgh next year? No. But I hope I'm one of the guys who is back. I want to prove to myself and to reestablish to everyone the player that I am. Ray is a good GM. I can't control what he's going to do.”

Martin admitted that adjusting to coach Dan Bylsma's system has been a challenge but said he finally feels comfortable.

One of his teammates is expecting big things.

“I know Paul is upset because he had an off year,” right wing Arron Asham said. “But he's going to rebound. He'll have a big year. He's too good of a player not to.”

Martin wants to have that rebound season in Pittsburgh.

“They signed me for a reason,” he said. “I want to be a good player in Pittsburgh. I want to show everyone there what I can do. Sometimes a fresh start somewhere else can be a good thing for a player. But I want to be with the Penguins.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1975.

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