It's been a while since the Pittsburgh Penguins have enjoyed the services of Paul Martin, but his presence along the blueline is forthcoming. Martin has been skating with teammates lately and team doctors are evaluating him Wednesday. If that checkup goes well, Martin will be allowed to participate in contact drills. The Pens one-game week will give Martin possibly three practices under his belt before Monday's tilt against the Florida Panthers.
That gap between games might be the sticky-wicket for Paul Martin's return. The Minnesota native has not played since breaking his tibia November 25th when he blocked a shot against the Boston Bruins. That was 22 games ago. While the Pens gang of youngster defensemen have filled in admirably, Martin's return to ice will be welcomed more than a cold beer after a long day based on his NHL experience alone. On the year, Martin has two goals and nine assists. Five of those points have come via the power play.
The sooner Paul Martins returns the better. But not so much for the Penguins sake. The power play, ranked first in the NHL, is running wild and has not missed Martin. The Pens are suffering a recent lack of defensive responsibility (ask Rob Scuderi about that) but Jacques Martin will fix that with or without Martin in the lineup. Sure, the veteran's presence will help but it's more a product of the long season and not a new trend. No, the Penguins are not rushing Martin back for themselves. Martin is rushing himself back for the Olympics.
Dan Bylsma and USA Hockey selected Martin to their 2014 Sochi squad on Martin's assurance that he'll be healthy when the Games start. It was a gamble but one that Martin wants to make money on. He's been close to Olympic glory twice and at 32 years old, there will not be another chance. Even if he pulls a Nicklas Lidstrom and plays until he's 46, the wealth of talent the Americans have at defense will push him off future rosters. Sochi 2014 is Paul Martin's last bid for a Olympic medal.
Excluding Wednesday's, the Penguins have ten games between now and the two-week Olympic break. For a player coming off a broken leg, that is not a ton of time. The more of those games Paul Martin plays, the more rust he'll knock off. And with these Olympics being so important to him, that's a darn big deal.
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