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Penguins notebook: Martin's injury opens door for Eaton

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 1:02 p.m.
With Paul Martin out of Saturday's lineup, the Penguins opted to use Mark Eaton -- who hadn't played an NHL game since April 3, 2012 -- in his place. File photo

MONTREAL - The absence of one steady defender from the Penguins' lineup opened the door for another Saturday in Montreal.

Defenseman Paul Martin, who is enjoying a revival after two disappointing seasons with the Penguins, was unable to play because of what coach Dan Bylsma called a "lower-body injury."

Bylsma labeled Martin's injury as day to day and did not discount the possibility that he could play Monday against Tampa Bay.

"I don't know what the probability is," Bylsma said. "But he's day to day."

With Martin out, the Penguins opted to use Mark Eaton - who hadn't played an NHL game since April 3, 2012 - in his place.

Unsigned last summer, Eaton accepted an offer to play for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL. After participating in six games at the AHL level, Eaton was invited to Pittsburgh on a tryout.

He practiced with the Penguins for five days before receiving a one-year deal.

The veteran, who was paired with defenseman Kris Letang during the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup run, was appreciative of the opportunity.

"I have a lot of different emotions," Eaton said before the game. "I'm excited. I'm nervous. It's been a while since I played in an NHL game. But it's a great thing."

The Penguins, in need of steady defensive work following leaky performances during the past week, welcomed Eaton into the lineup.

"He's a steady defender," Bylsma said. "Not a physical guy but a good positional guy. He's solid. That's who he is."

Eaton started Saturday's game playing with defenseman Matt Niskanen.

"I've played against him before so I have an idea of what he can do," Niskanen said. "He's a steady guy back there. I think we'll be fine."

Malkin improving

Center Evgeni Malkin still has not experienced any setbacks following a concussion Feb. 22 against the Florida Panthers.

Malkin skated Wednesday and Thursday at Southpointe. He worked out away from the ice Friday and Saturday.

Bylsma said Malkin would have skated Saturday but ice wasn't available in the Pittsburgh area.

Despres back in lineup

Bylsma decided to scratch rookie defenseman Robert Bortuzzo instead of Simon Despres for a third straight game.

The Penguins are 11-4-0 with Despres in the lineup. He has been a minus player only one time this season. Despres has produced two goals and five points in 15 games. He is a plus-6.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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