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Corbet closer to comeback

| Monday, April 2, 2001

PITTSBURGH - Everything appears to be falling into place for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh has a mere four games remaining in the regular season, the team is riding a four-game winning streak, all of which came against playoff contenders, and the Penguins have clinched their 11th straight postseason berth.

With the recent success the team has had there have been smiles galore around the Pittsburgh locker room. But it would be hard to begrudge left wing Rene Corbet his bitter expression.

A freak accident in practice, a harmless blast off the stick of defenseman Hans Jonsson during a shoot-around drill, caused a deep bruise in Corbet's foot. After missing three games he returned to the lineup and was hit in the same spot, which broke the bone and sidelined him for the last 20 games. During his 43 games in the lineup, he had scored eight goals and 17 points with a plus-minus rating of minus-3 despite regularly being matched up against the opposition's top scoring line.

'The first couple weeks was hard because I had to focus on the rehab and think positive,' Corbet said. 'It's just part of the (healing) process.'

The injury couldn't have come at a worse time. for him. Corbet had scored points in five of his previous 10 games, including a goal Feb 7 against Philadelphia when he was initially injured. After sitting for three games he returned to notch an assist and play 10:24 in a 4-4 tie at New Jersey.

That was the last time Corbet saw the ice during a regular season game this season. But it may not be his final chance to log a shift before it's time to get his golf clubs out.

'It's coming around and at least I'm out of the cast,' Corbet said. 'I started biking last week to get the legs going but it's still very sore.'

He won't have much time to rehabilitate and get into game shape. With the playoffs slated to begin April 11 it will take a miracle for him to get his wind back and work his way back into the lineup.

That being the case, Corbet still hasn't given up hope for his return.

'Hopefully Tuesday or Wednesday we'll see how the painful it is and I'll try to skate,' Corbet said. 'I want to play in the playoffs, but I have to make sure that the bone is 100 percent strong enough to play.'

The Penguins could certainly use a player of his pedigree.

The playoffs are a breeding ground for a solid checker who has good speed and decent hands with a penchant for scoring key goals in critical situations. In 36 career postseason games, Corbet has six goals and 12 points including a goal and an assist in the final two games in Pittsburgh's 4-2 series loss to Philadelphia last year.

Pittsburgh really doesn't have that type of gritty player on its top three lines and adding him to the lineup could only help.

Even if Corbet becomes healthy enough to play, finding a spot in the lineup for him could be a problem. The third line of Wayne Primeau, Josef Beranek and Kevin Stevens has been playing well of late. Stevens has missed the last two games with a slight knee sprain, but head coach Ivan Hlinka has grafted Aleksey Morozov onto the line with little falloff.

The fact that there may not be anymore room on the bench is not one of Corbet's primary concerns.

'That's too far ahead,' Corbet said. 'I just want to come back and be healthy enough to play good around the boards and forecheck and hit without any pain and we'll go from there.'

It's all the Penguins could ask for.

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