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Penguins

Penguins notebook: Cullen to miss three-plus weeks with foot injury

| Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, 2:36 p.m.
The Penguins' Matt Cullen is tripped up by the Red Wings' Tomas Tatar before being awarded an empty-net goal in the third period Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Matt Cullen is tripped up by the Red Wings' Tomas Tatar before being awarded an empty-net goal in the third period Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins' Matt Cullen and Brian Dumoulin fight for the puck with the Sharks' Joe Pavelski in the first period Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Matt Cullen and Brian Dumoulin fight for the puck with the Sharks' Joe Pavelski in the first period Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at PPG Paints Arena.

As a penalty killer and checking-line center, Matt Cullen endured all sorts of aches and pains a season ago, yet he managed to play in every one of the Penguins' games, from the Oct. 8 opener to the Stanley Cup Final clincher, a span of 106 appearances.

For the veteran's body to hold up so well just a few months before he turned 40 left teammates and coaches in awe.

Alas, streaks of sturdiness must eventually end.

Cullen will miss approximately three to four weeks with a foot injury, coach Mike Sullivan said Tuesday after practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

Eric Fehr likely will fill in as the fourth-line center.

Cullen suffered the injury when he blocked a shot during the 8-7 overtime win against Washington on Monday and roamed the Cranberry facility in a walking boot during practice.

Rare is the ailment that keeps Cullen off the ice for long. He ended up on the injured reserve list twice because of upper-body injuries while with Nashville in 2014-15, but before that, his most recent stint on the list came in spring 2008, according to prosportstransactions.com.

He has appeared in at least 73 regular-season games in four of the last five full seasons; he also played in 42 of Minnesota's 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

Cullen's eight goals this season ranked seventh on the team. He also led all of the forwards in average short-handed ice time (2 minutes, 30 seconds per game).

Jolly Green Giant

A lone green jersey broke up the swirl of black, white and gold uniforms at Tuesday's practice. It made Brian Dumoulin, already a noticeable figure at 6-foot-4, that much more distinguishable.

Dumoulin considered himself just one of the guys for the first time in weeks, though.

The defenseman, still recovering from a broken jaw suffered Dec. 27, joined the Penguins for practice for the first time. He skated on his own during the past week but longed for the banter of teammates.

“The team was on the road, so I was missing the guys and being around them,” Dumoulin said.

Sullivan classified the development as an encouraging sign for Dumoulin, who had not been cleared for contact but joined the team for its road trip to Montreal and Carolina.

“It feels fine,” Dumoulin said. “I don't think it's anything I can reinjure just skating out there right now. It's just a matter of waiting for clearance from a doctor to be able to play and make sure that it's fully healed so if it gets hit again in a game, it'll be safe.”

Right reads, wrong spots

Matt Murray's save percentage for the season took a dive from .925 to .916 following his 21-save, seven goals-allowed performance against Washington. But the goalie conveyed a sense of calm and found little reason to criticize his play.

“At the end of the day, if you make the right read, and you're in the right spot, and something like (an odd deflection) happens, then you can kind of brush it off,” he said. “I think that happened quite a few times last night, where I did everything right, I was in the right spot, I played it exactly how I would want to, and then it hit something.

“That power-play goal that they had, (Ian Cole) goes down in front of Ovechkin's shot and takes one. It lands right in front of (Trevor Daley), and Dales kicks it just a little bit too hard, and it goes right to Oshie on the backdoor. At the end of the day, there's really nothing you can do on stuff like that, so those ones, you definitely brush off.”

Swap meet

The Penguins sent defenseman David Warsofsky back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and called up left-handed defenseman Cameron Gaunce.

Gaunce, 26, signed with the Penguins as a free agent July 1 but did not make the NHL roster out of training camp. He has two goals and six assists in 39 games with the Baby Pens. His career includes 20 NHL games — nine with Dallas in 2013-14 and 11 with Colorado in 2010-11.

Warsofsky returns to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after dressing in two Penguins games since his Jan. 11 call-up.

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

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