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Is Dan Bylsma Looking for Reasons to Keep Pittsburgh Penguins Out of the Lineup?

PITTSBURGH - MARCH 25:  Head coach Dan Bylsma of the PIttsburgh Penguins addresses the media after the Penguins defeated the Calgary Flames 2-0 on March 25, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Sergey ZikovSenior Analyst INovember 16, 2009

A few hours before Saturday night's game with the Boston Bruins, Dan Bylsma and the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that top-line left wing Chris Kunitz would miss two weeks with an always ridiculously specific "lower body injury."

Bylsma calmly explained to the media, "Chris [Kunitz] has been dealing with a lower-body injury for a while now. At this point in time, we're going to take two weeks off for a rest period to try and get him healthy."

This was hardly anything unforeseen, as Kunitz had received one of Bylsma's trademarked "maintenance days", where he was excluded from the team's morning practice.

This is also not the first time that the Penguins have announced that a player would be missing two weeks for a rest period. In fact, Bylsma could probably record his press conference and then each following day, simply press the rewind button and play it back for reporters. The only difference of course, would be changing the player name.

It started two weeks ago when superstar center Evgeni Malkin was given a two-to-three week mandatory rest period to heal his shoulder.

After an average game by No. 71's standards, the Penguin staff made the choice that nobody wanted to make. Sitting Malkin, especially against his will, it was the right decision to painlessly end his streak of 254 games played.

It was only the beginning.

Following Malkin, down went Tyler Kennedy (groin, indefinite), Kris  Letang (shoulder, two weeks), Brooks Orpik (lower body, two weeks), and Kunitz (lower body, two weeks). A parade by any definition, except for the fact that nobody was cheering, throwing candy or playing music.

But the question must be asked: Is Dan Bylsma looking for reasons to keep players out of the lineup?

Disco Dan is no idiot. He knows full well that a number of his core players have logged over 200 games in the past two seasons and have enjoyed the benefits of nearly no summer offseason. He knows full well that a number of his core players will be leaving the team in February to play Olympic hockey in addition to the regular 82-game NHL season.

Would the Penguins honestly be able to play Bylsma's highly aggressive offensive style for another 82 games, and more assuming they qualify for the playoffs, without wearing down by April-May?

In the final three rounds of the playoffs last season, the Penguins saw first-hand what can happen. 

While mandatory rest for numerous key Penguins is a great thing for the future, the Penguins B team has been anything other than stellar. They lost four straight before a thrilling comeback win over Boston, but are 0-for-28 on the powerplay in the last eight games. The defense, down half of it's six opening night starters, has been porous at best having allowed five or more goals on three seperate occasions.

Only the individual players know how they feel, but would a similar condition keep them out of a playoff game? We'll never know for sure, however it would seem unlikely.

There's no question that with the current ailments, Bylsma is more than willing to take absolutely no chances with players playing at less than 100 percent. Even an otherwise minor bruise, as sustained by Malkin, is a warrant for two weeks on the shelf for recovery time.

But they are injuries nonetheless. Which if it was not true, why would Bylsma sit so many of his players at the same time, instead of trying to spread out their mandatory rest?

At this point, it seems like no Penguin player will be on the ice for all 82 games and everybody is entitled to their "Weekend Pass" of a sense.

Plus, it's never a bad thing to get some Baby Penguins in the lineup, like Chris Conner , Ben Lovejoy, or newly-promoted Mark Letestu . It's not what the crowd who spent good money necessarily wants to see, but the knowledgeable fans should be easy to accept that the former fourth-liner Bylsma wants the best for his players.

This just in.

Alex Goligoski is next.

"He's been banged up. It was a maintenance day. Monday, we'll take a look at him again." Bylsma said of his only offensive defenseman not already on the injury report. There is a good chance that Goligoski does not suit up against Anaheim, and it's almost too predictable what might come next.

Yep. Two weeks of mandatory rest with a lower body injury.

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