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Penguins

Penguins' Roberts almost ready to return

| Wednesday, April 2, 2008

His broken fibula has healed, and his high ankle sprain has nearly mended. With the Stanley Cup playoffs set to open next week, Gary Roberts is ready to make his return to the Penguins lineup.

"Obviously, it's been a while, and it was good to get back out with the guys again and get a little sweat," Roberts said Tuesday after practice. "Hopefully, I made some progress and we'll go from there."

Roberts, who has not played since Dec. 29, took the ice for the optional practice and went through more than 90 minutes of drills, including a final half hour of two-on-two hockey. He had hoped to play in the final five regular-season games to tune up for the playoffs, but he's projecting that he'll be in the lineup Sunday when the Penguins play their season finale in Philadelphia.

"At this point, I'm just trying to get ready to play, whether it's one game maybe on Sunday if things go well the next few days," Roberts said. "I don't see me playing (today) obviously, I need a few more days of practice. Hopefully, with no setbacks, I'll be ready to play Sunday. No one wants to go into the playoffs with no games under their belt, but the pace is pretty good right now. I haven't played in three months, but I'm doing everything I can off the ice to get ready, but there's nothing like game conditioning."

Whether he plays Sunday or in the first round of the playoffs, there is little doubt Roberts will add a huge intangible to a formidable lineup.

"It's tough to say how he played until I see him in a game, but when he does come back, he's going to have some fire in his belly and he's going to play his game," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "He's a spark for our team, and I'm real excited and I hope I get to play with him because he opens up a lot of things with the way he plays."

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