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Penguins notebook: Bortuzzo remains upbeat despite lack of playing time

| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 8:03 p.m.
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Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo chats with Flyers forward Scott Hartnell during a game at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Pittsburgh.

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo has been a healthy scratch during each of the past three games in favor of Deryk Engelland.

Instead of griping, Bortuzzo is taking the demotion in stride.

“If you get down about stuff like this,” Bortuzzo said, “I think you're probably in the wrong business. It's part of hockey. It's part of sports. Of course you never want to have to sit at any point in your career, but it happens to a lot of people.”

Bortuzzo's performance against Philadelphia on Nov. 13 likely was his poorest of the season. He hasn't played since.

A giveaway that evening led to the Flyers' opening goal.

“That game was not my best effort,” Bortuzzo said. “I wasn't real good with the puck.”

Bortuzzo is a physical defenseman who has played well most of the season while teamed with rookie Olli Maatta. Coaches believed his performance in training camp and exhibition games exceeded that of Engelland's, who has played portions of this season on the right wing.

Puck skills never will be Bortuzzo's strength — he is in the mold of a classic, defensive defenseman who earns a living by playing a simple, physical game — and lately, he knows turnovers have forced him out of the lineup.

“Some of my puck movement has been sloppy,” he said. “I've watched some video and stuff like that. I know I can play better, and I'm confident that I will.”

A healthy scratch through most of last season, Bortuzzo remains optimistic he soon will return to the lineup.

“Keeping a positive attitude has always been a key for me over the years, and that's what I'm going to do now,” he said. “Things have always worked out.”

PK to receive mighty test

The Penguins' penalty-killing unit has permitted only one goal in nine games, rising to the league's No. 8 ranking.

The Penguins' penalty killers will face quite a test Wednesday in Washington where they will face another No. 8.

Alex Ovechkin has scored seven power-play goals this season and leads the NHL's No. 2-ranked power play.

“You can't take away all of their options,” said coach Dan Bylsma, explaining that Washington uses Ovechkin at the left point and down low, along with an assortment of other packages that make the Capitals among the NHL's most diverse teams with a man advantage.

Center Nicklas Backstrom quarterbacks Washington's power play from the right wing boards. The Capitals generally deploy three right-handed shooters, all looking to fire one-timers from Backstrom. Ovechkin and defenseman Mike Green are the two triggermen that Backstrom favors.

“They make it really hard on you,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “They make it hard on you because, even though you know you have to focus on Ovechkin, they have so many other skilled players. So you really can't just focus on him.”

Ovechkin has managed to free himself for a number of one-timer goals while on the power play this season, leading some to wonder how opposing teams can leave the game's most dangerous goal scorer so available for passes.

Defenseman Matt Niskanen said that Washington essentially dares teams to plant a defender in front of Ovechkin, which basically creates a four-on-three situation for the other players on the ice.

“They play him at the weak-side point,” Niskanen said. “You can't really leaves someone there at all times.”

Around the boards

Evgeni Malkin did not practice Tuesday, but Bylsma said the slumping center will be in the lineup against Washington on Wednesday. Malkin was the only player to miss Tuesday's practice at Consol Energy Center. … Bylsma suggested the new line combinations used against Anaheim will remain intact against the Capitals.

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

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