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Pittsburgh Penguins Lighten up Mood During Open Practice

December 10th, 2013 at 9:29 PM
By Shane Darrow


The Pittsburgh Penguins hosted their fifth annual open practice at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday, packing the rink with thousands of kids from Allegheny County schools to watch the team practice. 

Throughout the session, the kids were able to hear Paul Steigerwald and Phil Bourque run practice from the bench. They explained the drills to all the children in the crowd and had trivia questions posted on the video board to help the kids remain interactive throughout the practice.

Still on the brink of the brutal incident from Saturday night against the Boston Bruins, which left Brooks Orpik on the ice unconscious and earned James Neal a 5-game suspension, hopefully some time with the younger end of the Penguins fan base will lift their spirits as they prepare for their next contest Friday night against the New Jersey Devils. 

At the end of practice, Jussi Jokinen, Chuck Kobasew and Sidney Crosby ran through the crowd and gave the kids some high-fives. It was their “punishment” for being the last three to score in a team-wide shootout at the end of practice.

The Penguins just didn't look like the same team after Orpik was taken off the ice at TD Garden in Boston on a stretcher just three nights ago. The game was as emotional as it was physical, and playing a full game after watching one your top defenseman get knocked out cold can't be easy.

Clinging on to a one-goal lead late in the third, the Bruins converted twice in the final 1:29 to steal the victory out of the Penguins hands. It was their first regulation loss in two weeks.

The defeat hurts, but losing Orpik hurts more. 

Dan Rosen tweeted on Monday night that Pens GM Ray Shero said Orpik didn't remember anything after the National Anthem on Saturday night. The whole fiasco is definitely a scary one.

The Penguins have had bad luck in the past with head injuries, and with defenseman Rob Scuderi and Paul Martin both out of the lineup with injuries, the last thing the defensive core could afford was to lose Orpik

Even through all the injuries, the Pens bounced back Monday night and defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, holding off a late surge in the third.

It's been a difficult couple of weeks for the Penguins injury-wise, so a fun practice in front of the kids may have come at a perfect time as they prepare for the Devils.

Without Scuderi, Martin or Orpik, it will be up to Olli Maatta and Derek Engelland, who moved back to defense after a short stint at forward, to fill the void. Even more pressure will be placed on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury as well without the help of three of the teams top defenseman.

Puck drop for Friday nights game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.





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Tags: Brooks Orpik, Hockey, NHL, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

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