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Penguins notebook: Sunday starting time not going to change for Steelers

| Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, 7:36 p.m.

Those who attend Sunday's Penguins matinee with Carolina at Consol Energy Center will need to explore creative means if they wish to see the game's conclusion and catch the kickoff of the AFC divisional-round playoff game between the Steelers and Denver.

An effort by the Penguins to change the 3 p.m. start time of Sunday's game failed, as Carolina could not accommodate the request, according to a release from the Penguins.

The Steelers game begins at 4:40 p.m.

Fans who attend Sunday's matchup will be able to stay in the arena after the game and watch the Steelers on the videoboard, the Penguins announced.

Looking good in black

With Chris Kunitz given a maintenance day, center Sidney Crosby needed a new winger for Monday's practice at the UMPC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

Sergei Plotnikov, a fourth-liner with the Penguins this season, got the opportunity to don a black practice jersey, reserved for the team's top two forward lines, and skate alongside Crosby and David Perron.

Plotnikov, a rookie still in the hunt for his first NHL goal, stuck with his linemates even during the practice's earliest moments when the trio took turns rifling one-timers from the slot.

Crosby praised the Russian rookie's ability to create and extend possessions on offense. They kept their communication short and simple.

“Not many words,” Crosby said of his knowledge of Russian. “Probably not good ones for the ones that I did pick up (from Evgeni Malkin).”

Reps and revelations

Defenseman Adam Clendening, who rejoined the Penguins after a six-game conditioning assignment with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, reveled in what he witnessed from the Baby Pens during his stint.

“They have a really good team down there,” said Clendening, who had three assists and was a plus-4 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. “They play a lot like we do here now, obviously with (Mike Sullivan) being their (former) coach. … Some stuff he hasn't brought here yet, but the set-ups were pretty similar, which was easy.”

Clendening came away particularly impressed by his first and most frequent defensive partner, Derrick Pouliot.

With five goals and 14 assists, Pouliot continues to attract intrigue from Penguins fans who want more puck-moving blue liners. Criticism of Pouliot's defense, Clendening argued, is perhaps unfair.

“He's obviously got the tools. You can see that right away,” Clendening said. “I think if people really sit there and look at it, he's actually a pretty good defender.

“He might not block shots, or he might not be a big, physical guy, but he's rarely on the ice for goals against, and he plays against the other team's top line. … It's not for me to determine, but to play with him, I thought he was very solid.”

Clendening considered his conditioning in order when he was sent to the Baby Pens, but he appreciated the opportunity to compete under game conditions.

The 23-year-old defenseman has appeared in just nine games with the Penguins, most recently Dec. 19 against Carolina.

“It's good to get your touches back,” Clendening said. “(The stint) was really about maintaining. It's not like it was crazy long from playing last (for the Penguins). … You get some power-play time. That's one of my fortes. Then moving the puck and working on some stuff in the ‘D' zone.

“Guys are smart players there, but it's just, I'd say, not maybe as crisp. There's a little more bouncing around than in the NHL.”

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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