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Penguins' Orpik: Thornton was 'apologetic'

| Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, 7:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Brooks Orpik plays against the Sharks, Dec. 5, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Calling the man who attacked him from behind during a stoppage in play “a pretty good friend,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on Friday largely defended Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.

Orpik, who suffered a concussion after being punched repeatedly by Thornton, participated in a Penguins practice for the first time since the Dec. 7 incident in Boston. He also spoke publicly for the first time since.

“My record is far from perfect in this league and far from being completely clean,” said Orpik, who estimated he worked out with Thornton in Boston 40 to 50 times during last season's lockout. “It's one of those things where I think he knew he made a mistake and regretted it right away. I've felt the same way with certain incidents I've been a part of, and I think he tried to learn from it, move on and try to be smarter in similar situations going forward.”

Orpik, who has been suspended twice in his career but not since 2006, said he “feels a lot better” than he did last week, when he had severe headaches in the two to three days after being wheeled off the TD Garden ice on a stretcher.

Orpik, who said this was his first concussion as a pro, said Thornton reached out to him the next night and the following day. “He was really apologetic,” Orpik said.

Orpik has memory loss of that game but nothing else. He said he has not watched replays of the attack, nor does he want to.

That enabled the 10-year veteran to sidestep commenting in detail on the incident or Thornton's discipline.

“My opinion is probably different than the next guy and different from the next guy,” was a popular refrain from Orpik.

The closest Orpik came to admonishing Thornton or those defending him was a subtle rebuttal to those who say he should have fought Thornton after angering the Bruins with a crushing but legal hit on Loui Eriksson.

“There are a lot of hits during the season,” Orpik said, “so there'd be a lot of fighting if that was the case.”

Symptom-free for a week and having passed the baseline concussion test, Orpik was allowed to absorb light contact while skating with injured teammates Thursday. When he felt fine Friday morning, he was cleared, with no restrictions, to practice. The workout wasn't strenuous. The Penguins are in the midst of a stretch of six games in nine days that concludes with an afternoon game Saturday against the Calgary Flames at Consol Energy Center.

“It was kind of getting back into the flow of things, I guess,” Orpik said. “I don't know when I'll be back playing. I don't want to screw up a good thing.”

With games Saturday and Monday the only ones scheduled for the Penguins until after Christmas, it is unlikely Orpik will play until Friday at Carolina at the earliest.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or on Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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