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Penguins

Notebook: Orpik reassigned to Wilkes-Barre

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2002

Defenseman Brooks Orpik was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday in anticipation of Dick Tarnstrom's return.

Orpik, 22, had not dressed for the four games before his reassignment. He was recalled Dec. 9 and played in six games for the Penguins with no points.

"He's been practicing and doing extra, but he needs to play," coach Rick Kehoe said. "He needs ice time. When Dick comes back, there's going to be a little less ice time out there for some of the guys who are playing right now. For (Orpik), he needs to play, and this is the best thing for him."

Kehoe said that Orpik was understandably disappointed, but that he could still be back in the NHL this season. The Penguins had already lost four games by the time Orpik played his first game, the opener of a five-game swing that started in Toronto and went west.

"We're happy with the way he played," Kehoe said. "It was a tough situation for him to come in to. We weren't winning, and all of a sudden, you're in the lineup and playing every night. It wasn't the best of situations for him. As a coaching staff and management, we're happy with the way he played."

TARNSTROM COULD RETURN TONIGHT

Kehoe wouldn't rule Tarnstrom out of the lineup tonight when the Penguins play in Columbus. The defenseman, who broke his foot Nov. 29, practiced with the team for the first time Friday.

"He's almost ready to come back," Kehoe said yesterday morning. "I'm not saying he won't play (tonight), but we'll just see how the game goes (Monday)."

Despite missing the past 15 games, Tarnstrom remains the 10th leading scorer among NHL defensemen with four goals and 21 assists.

MOROZOV TO MISS AT LEAST ANOTHER MONTH

Penguins winger Aleksey Morozov probably will not return to the lineup until February, and he could be out until March if his broken left wrist doesn't heal. Morozov was injured Dec. 10 in Toronto when he was checked near the Penguins' bench, and the initial diagnosis was that he'd miss 4-6 weeks.

Doctors found another break a week after the injury occurred, but according to trainers, it wouldn't have caused him to miss additional time.

The break in question is to the scaphoid bone, which is a difficult bone to heal because it receives very poor blood flow. Morozov is officially listed as indefinite, because there's no way to tell how long he'll be out. He will be reevaluated every two weeks, and if the bone doesn't heal on its own, he may need bolts inserted.

SLAP SHOTS

Goaltender Johan Hedberg (2.80 goals-against average, .905 save percentage) will be in net tonight. … Mario Lemieux was the runner-up for the NHL's Player of the Week award, thanks to his two goals, six assists and plus-5 rating in three games. Blues goaltender Brent Johnson beat out Lemieux, teammate Pavol Demitra and Islanders goaltender Chris Osgood for the award. … Penguins draft choice Ryan Whitney, defenseman, leads Team USA in scoring at the World Junior Championships with four points (one goal, three assists) in three games. Goaltender Robert Goepfert has a 0.99 GAA and a .963 save percentage, second among all goaltenders. Team USA is off to a 2-1 start and closes the preliminaries today against Slovakia.

SCRATCHES

Randy Robitaille was a healthy scratch for the Penguins. Injured scratches were Morozov, Tarnstrom, Josef Melichar (shoulder surgery), Janne Laukkanen (hip) and Kris Beech (appendectomy). The Thrashers scratched Jeff Cowan (groin), Byron Dafoe (groin), Chris Herperger (flu), Richard Smehlik (chest contusion), Lubos Bartecko (wrist) and Uwe Krupp (back).

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