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Crosby's back, Whitney's still at left wing

| Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney will continue to wing it, at least for the time being.

"I'm not playing 'D' any more right now," Whitney announced after an optional practice this afternoon. "I just gotta keep trying to improve, keep a good attitude and wherever I play, play as hard as I can.

"If I get a chance to play 'D' again I'll be ready."

Head coach Michel Therrien was unavailable for comment.

Whitney played left wing in the Penguins' 2-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

He remained one of the point men on the top power-play unit and assisted on Ryan Malone's power-play goal in the first period.

Whitney signed a six-year, $24 million contract prior to becoming a restricted free agent last offseason.

Sidney Crosby will play his normal center position when he returns to the ice following a seven-game absence when the Pens host the Islanders on Thursday night.

"Yep, I'm playing," Crosby said. "My ankle feels great and the conditioning is as good as it can get without playing. I feel good."

Crosby suffered a high-ankle sprain on Jan. 18 and missed 21 games, returned for three and then left the lineup again prior to the Penguins' 7-3 win over Buffalo on March 12.

The Penguins are 16-8-4 without Crosby in the lineup.

Whitney played 11:29 against the Devils, 2:54 on the power play and 8:35 at even strength.

He's averaging 22:44 of ice time a game this season.

The Penguins' blueline became crowded when Rob Scuderi returned after an 11-game absence due to a fractured finger on Monday night against the Islanders. Whitney cited some perceived "inconsistencies" as the reason for his becoming the odd man out on defense.

"That's my assessment and the coach's assessment," Whitney said.

Whitney said it's up to Therrien as to when a switch back to defense is made. "When he wants me to play 'D' again I'll play 'D' and I'll try as hard as I can," Whitney said. "I don't know when that will be."

"I'm not thrilled playing forward but to win that game (on Tuesday night), it was awesome. It was a great feeling in the locker room and I was a part of it. It's still nice to be playing and clinch a playoff spot and be in first place. "I'm frustrated but I'm not going to let that stop my effort and enthusiasm. It's kinda on me to play better. I'm just going to battle through it."

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