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Penguins notebook: Zolnierczyk adjusts to his role

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Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 10:40 p.m.

Harry Zolnierczyk entered Friday with two goals in his past four games played for the Penguins. Those four games were played over a span of six weeks.

Zolnierczyk scored a day after being recalled by Pittsburgh from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Tuesday, and he did it while skating on the fourth line. Zolnierczyk is second on the AHL Penguins' in goals (14) and points (25) over 37 games, but knows he's not being asked to be a top scorer in the NHL.

“Even though I maybe play on a top line (in the AHL), I still try to and play the same way,” said Zolnierczyk, who's played 55 NHL games. “That's going to be important for me to ultimately be able to stick when I come up here.

“I know my role up here, and I've got to play the same way: hard-nosed, going to the dirty areas and being able to contribute offensively when I get the opportunity.”

Niskanen loyal to U.S.

A Minnesota native who has represented his home country at both a World Junior Championship and a World Championship, Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen knows where his loyalties lie when it comes to the upcoming Olympic tournament.

Even if his unconditional support comes with a caveat: “I hope Sid and Geno lead the tournament in scoring and the U.S. wins the gold,” Niskanen said, referring to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. “I hope the each get a medal, too — just not the gold... You're with these guys all the time, these are your closest friends in the league, so I'm pulling for them... I just can't cheer for someone else but the U.S.”

Jokinen playing ‘my best hockey'

Scheduled to leave for Sochi this weekend, Finnish winger Jussi Jokinen said he's heading into the Olympics “confident I'm playing my best hockey.”

Jokinen had an assist on Olli Maatta's first-period goal Friday to give him 16 points in the 16 games heading into the Olympics. He has 42 points this season, putting him on pace for his best season in four years.

“I like how my body feels right now, and I've got lots of confidence,” Jokinen said. “Our line with (James Neal) and (Malkin) has played pretty good hockey and been able to produce.”

Bethel Park teen honored

Connor Namuth, the Bethel Park teen stricken with cerebral palsy after suffering a stroke at birth, was recognized on the video scoreboard during a second-period stoppage.

Namuth, who's had five major surgeries since being born premature, had a hat trick on senior night for the Bethel Park High School hockey team.

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