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Penguins aiming to get physical with opponents

| Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011

General manager Ray Shero never has been shy about declaring his desire for the Penguins to be "a tough team to play against." He iterated that Tuesday morning, and not long after his coach, Dan Bylsma, addressed a trend that has developed.

Defenseman Deryk Engelland, a hit with fans early this season because of several eye-catching fights, has dropped the gloves just once since signing a contract extension Jan. 3.

"Most NHL teams watch highlights — I watch highlights, and I'm not so sure I'd be fighting him as much as he was getting an opportunity early in the year," Bylsma said. "Just watch the end of that game (Feb. 2) against the Islanders. He was right in that scrum, but I don't think anyone in that scrum was interested in taking the gloves off against Deryk."

There is no question that Engelland, in his first full NHL season, has quickly developed a reputation as a heavyweight. He gives the Penguins two legitimate fighters of that standing: Right wing Eric Godard has earned the reputation as a top-notch enforcer.

Still, many Penguins fans were surprised to see prospect Tim Wallace have a go with Capitals center David Steckel late in a loss at Washington on Sunday.

Steckel, after all, delivered the controversial blow to Penguins center Sidney Crosby at the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. That hit is widely believed to be one of two that left Crosby concussed, and he has missed the past 14 games.

Wallace, a recent recall from the AHL, going at Steckel instead of bruisers such as Engelland, Godard or even forward Mike Rupp, seemed somewhat odd.

A popular theory among those around the Penguins daily held that injuries to Rupp and Godard prevented them from challenging Steckel.

"Nope," Rupp said. "It takes two guys, and (Steckel) just didn't want to fight."


The Penguins will play tonight without five players that have accounted for 85 of their 161 goals (52.8 percent). Those players, their status, and their contribution to the offense:


Status: Out indefinitely (concussion)

Goals/Pct. Offense: 32 /19.9 percent


Status: Day-to-day (lower-body)

Goals/Pct. Offense: 18/11.2 percent


Status: Out for season (right knee)

Goals/Pct. Offense: 15/9.3 percent


Status: Out six weeks (left knee)

Goals/Pct. Offense: 10/ 6.2 percent


Status: out four games (suspension)

Goals/Pct. Offense: 10/6.2 percent



An NHL Insider offers insight on the Penguins' opponents for the week ahead:


Home, 7 p.m. today

"This is a very talented team that has underachieved given the hefty expectations for a Stanley Cup run. The Kings are in the middle of a long road trip and are fighting to stay in the playoff race because goaltending has been an issue."


Away, 7 p.m. Friday

"This team has much better talent then its record states. The biggest obstacle is getting over the mentality of poor recent history and injuries. This represents a dangerous team to play this time of season."


Away, 3 p.m. Sunday

"They've hit a rough stretch and must rebound to their more consistent level of play from early in the season. With regulars returning to lineup from injury recently, they should regain form as a top Eastern Conference team with goalie Henrik Lundqvist leading the charge."


Penguins players share their thoughts on GRIND:


"There is the grind of the schedule — a lot of games in not many nights, a ton of travel and all that. This is the time of the year when the schedule picks up for all teams. It's managing that, preparing as a team and taking care of your body."


"On this team, that means we want to set the game at our pace. We want to make the right decisions with the puck, get it behind their team so that they're always going back and we can hit them. We believe over the course of a game, that will help us win. When guys are doing it, you get energy from it."


"It's about getting physical, gritty, and battling when you're tired. Grind reminds me of the AHL days, going four games in five days — (grind) was a word that always came up. It means battling through it when things are tough."


Players to keep an eye on this week:


Kings center

He is very intelligent and a supremely smooth-skating playmaker. His is equally dangerous at scoring and moving the puck.


Islanders right wing

He has finally landed a full-time role at the NHL level. His speed is average, but he has great offensive touch and a quick release.


Rangers center

He has morphed from a fourth-line player to more of a scoring-line threat because of gradual improvement. Size makes him hard to handle, especially if he wins races to pucks.

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