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Penguins notebook: Sutter, Vitale return to practice

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 5:24 p.m.

Two days after they were unable to finish Monday's Game 6 victory at Columbus, center Brandon Sutter and right wing Joe Vitale were back on the ice for practice.

Both joined winger Brian Gibbons, who left a Game 2 victory early after scoring a pair of goals, as the Penguins practiced Wednesday morning at Consol Energy Center.

Neither offered many details of the injuries, though Vitale's was hard to miss: He and Blue Jackets left winger Blake Comeau collided knee-on-knee early in the third period.

“All I can say is I woke up today, and it felt great,” Vitale said. “Felt good enough to skate and felt good out there.

“It was a scary blow,” he added. “It's not a situation you want to find yourself in during the game — going knee-to-knee with anyone. It scared me at first.”

Vitale refuted the idea that he did it intentionally.

“It's not the kind of player I am,” Vitale said. “Especially that time of the game, with what we're looking forward to, I wouldn't want to hurt anybody or hurt myself or put anyone in jeopardy. I think we just kind of got tangled and got mixed up in it. Freak accident. I hope he's OK.”

Sutter was one of the Penguins' most impactful players in the Columbus series. He had three goals, five points, was a plus-6 and won 50 percent of his faceoffs.

The only specifics Sutter would offer on his injury was that the first occurrence wasn't when he turned awkwardly and went into the boards, trailed by Columbus forward Nick Foligno.

“The last shift wasn't where I originally felt something,” Sutter said. “I definitely knew after that I wasn't able to get back out there and be effective. I think it was probably better I didn't go.”

Orpik remains out

One noticeable absence from practice was defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Orpik left a practice at Southpointe last Friday less than halfway through and was replaced for Games 5 and 6 by Robert Bortuzzo.

Coach Dan Bylsma offered no injury updates, other than to say, “Some of those people you saw today. Some of them you did not.”

Per team policy, the Penguins do not provide injury specifics during the playoffs.

Metallurg wins

Center Evgeni Malkin practiced but was not a visible presence in the Penguins locker room afterward.

Perhaps he was busy celebrating Metallurg Magnitogorsk's first KHL Gagarin Cup title.

Malkin's hometown team — which is led by former NHL coach Mike Keenan — defeated Lev Praha, 7-4, in Game 7 on Wednesday.

Keenan became the first North American coach to win a Gagarin Cup and Stanley Cup. He won the latter with the New York Rangers in 1993-94.

They're fans, too

Bortuzzo said he would watch.

Same for fellow defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Vitale wanted to avoid hockey altogether and said he would purposely avoid the three Game 7s being played around the NHL on Wednesday night and instead spend time with his wife and kids.

“Try to get away a little bit because obviously things are going to start heating up for us a little bit,” Vitale said.

Bortuzzo said he has watched the Stanley Cup playoffs since he was little. He'll watch for tips, though he'll leave scouting up to the Penguins coaches. Mostly, he's a fan.

“I love this time of year,” Bortuzzo said. “Always have since I was a young kid. Since I turned pro, I've tended to watch a little more hockey because I think it can help out your game. Maybe a little less during the season, but playoff hockey … I'm watching a lot of these teams.”

No comment would do

Asked whether he subscribes to the theory that an injury player can lose his starting spot, Bylsma talked in circles for 58 seconds before finally cutting himself off.

“I guess I'm just not going to answer your question,” Bylsma finally said.

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