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Pens notebook: Therrien cherishes time in Pittsburgh

Former Penguins coach Michel Therrien has the Canadiens near the top of the Eastern Conference. (AP)

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Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 10:18 p.m.

For the third time over the past 10 months, former Penguins coach Michel Therrien was in Pittsburgh as coach of the Montreal Canadiens. The visits haven't become routine just yet.

“It's special, you know, every time I come to Pittsburgh,” said Therrien, who guided the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final during the final full season of his three-plus-year stint as coach. “First off, I've got great friends here. And it brings back lots of memories working with those young kids at the time — they're a lot more mature now — but that was a special place for me in the NHL. I really enjoyed being a part of it.”

Therrien has earned a reputation as a disciplinarian dedicated to on-ice structure. Defenseman Brooks Orpik said that was what the organization needed when Therrien was promoted from the Baby Penguins to Pittsburgh's coach in December 2005.

“A guy who's really passionate about what he does,” Orpik said. “You might not always agree with the way he does things, but at the end of the day you realize that his No. 1 goal is to win hockey games.

“He's very detail-oriented when it comes to systems — and if you do make a mistake, he's going to point it out to you, whether you like or not. He's a guy who definitely holds you accountable, and that goes a long way.”

Therrien was coach when the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin-led Penguins first made the playoffs in 2007. He was fired in February 2009 — four months before the franchise won its third Stanley Cup under Dan Bylsma.

Vokoun skates

Tomas Vokoun skated up and down the ice. The Penguins backup goalie played pucks behind his net with his stick and moved them on to fictional teammates. He even slid back and forth across his crease as if he was stopping pucks — at times, while wearing his helmet.

Although Volkoun did not face any live shots, the early-morning Wednesday workout was a positive step in returning from the blood clot in his pelvis that has prevented him from playing this season.

Vokoun was not made available to the media, but Bylsma relayed that Vokoun said he “felt great” and has been in good spirits.

“He was out there kind motoring around without any shots or anything, but hopefully soon enough his blood levels will return to normal and he can move on, hopefully, to taking some shots.”

Vokoun was taken off blood thinners last week. When his ailment was announced in September, the timetable for a return was 3-6 months.

Respectful check-in

Sidney Crosby did not accept Team Canada's captaincy for the upcoming Winter Olympics without showing proper respect to Chicago's Jonathan Toews.

Crosby called Toews, captain of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup clubs in 2010 and 2013, before taking on the national team role offered by Team Canada coach Mike Babcock last week.

“Crosby wanted to make sure it was OK with (Toews) because of the fact that he's won a couple of Cups,” Babcock told reports in Detroit on Wednesday.

Crosby's Canada captaincy was announced by Hockey Canada on Sunday. Toews is a Team Canada alternate, along with Nashville defenseman Shea Weber.

“I think everyone knows that Sidney was the guy,” Toews said Wednesday.

Team USA, coached by Dan Bylsma, has yet to name its captain or assistants. The host Russians will be captained by Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk.

Around the boards

Injured forwards Brian Gibbons (lower body) and Beau Bennett (wrist) skated Wednesday morning before practice. Forward Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle) participated in practice for the second consecutive day, but he missed his 20th straight game. … Forward Zach Sill was scratched for just the third time over the past 20 games. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was the Penguins' only other scratch.

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