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Penguins notebook: Teammates defend Kunitz after hit

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 7:24 p.m.

Left wing Chris Kunitz, the NHL's third-leading scorer, was ejected at the 16:23 mark of the second period Saturday for a hit that launched New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey head first into the boards.

Kunitz's teammates were quick to defend him following the game.

“I thought it was a hockey play,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “I don't have a problem with it. He takes a shot and protects himself. I see it as a hockey play.”

Kunitz had just been denied from the left circle on a save by goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. An instant later, Kunitz and Bailey skated toward the same spot. Kunitz looked at Bailey, who had dipped his shoulder, giving the appearance that he was about to hit Kunitz.

At that point, Kunitz drove himself toward Bailey, hitting him between his back and left side. Making matters worse, Bailey's body launched into the air, and his head smacked into the boards behind Nabokov's right shoulder.

Bailey remained on the ice for a lengthy period but is OK.

“I saw the hit,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “I'm not going to comment on the hit. Fortunately, (Bailey) is OK.”

“I watched the replay,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “My initial thought was that Bailey knew he was there. It certainly wasn't a hit from behind in my eyes. Kuny just had a little more steam. It was in that awkward area of the ice.”

Kunitz has a history of discipline; he was suspended one playoff game for an elbowing incident against former Lightning forward Simon Gagne in the 2011 postseason. If the NHL deems the call against Kunitz to be accurate, he could receive additional discipline.

In the zone

Tomas Vokoun has not allowed a goal in seven straight periods since replacing an injured Marc-Andre Fleury on Tuesday. He became the first goalie in Penguins history to record 60-minute shutouts in consecutive games. The Penguins have produced three straight shutouts, a first in franchise history.

Back in uniform

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was not well enough to dress Thursday but was in uniform Saturday, backing up Vokoun. Fleury injured his neck in a collision with right wing Tyler Kennedy on Tuesday against Montreal.

Big day for Brooks

Defenseman Brooks Orpik appeared in his 621st career game with the Penguins, tying him with Ron Stackhouse for most games played by a defenseman in franchise history.

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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