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Whitney nearing return to lineup

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By Tricia Lafferty
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008
 

Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney's goal of playing in a game before Christmas is looking more realistic.

Whitney has been out all season after undergoing surgery in August to correct a left-foot deformity. He has been practicing with the team since Nov. 21.

Whitney isn't positive, but a Dec. 23 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning is a possible return date.

"It's getting there," Whitney said. "I'm hoping pretty soon, probably not Atlanta, but I'm hoping soon after. I'd like to be in before Christmas. That was the goal the whole time."

A star is born

Right wing Petr Sykora was named the NHL's No. 2 star for his performance last week.

He recorded eight points (three goals, five assists) in four games. The highlight of the week came when Sykora recorded his first career hat trick in a 9-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Flower power

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who is expected to make his return to the net Thursday night against the Atlanta Thrashers, said he is feeling good.

"It's up to the coaches, and we'll see what they decide to do," Fleury said.

"I just have to get a couple practices in."

Fleury has missed 13 consecutive games since Nov. 15, when he sustained a lower-body injury in a victory over Buffalo at Mellon Arena. He was in uniform Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but backup Dany Sabourin was in goal.

Fleury could be the boost the Penguins need after losing four of the past five games.

"It's big," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "We don't know if he's playing for sure, but it would be nice to get him back. Obviously, he's our starting goalie."

The hating game

Crosby said the loss to rival Philadelphia came down to who wanted it more -- and it wasn't the Penguins.

"We didn't hate Philly enough on Saturday," Crosby said. "We didn't match their intensity. We don't hate them enough right now.

"It's not a new thing for a lot of guys. For some guys it is, but those are intense games. You have to have that will to go out there and compete every shift. Because if you don't match that, especially on the road, you're gonna be in trouble."

Opting to skate

Ten players participated in the optional skate Monday, including forwards Eric Godard, Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Tim Wallace, defensemen Kris Letang, Whitney and Alex Goligoski and goalies Fleury and Sabourin.

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