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Thorburn gets thorny 'homecoming'

Almost immediately after the Pittsburgh Penguins plucked forward Chris Thorburn off waivers at the end of training camp, the former Buffalo Sabres prospect relished the thought of sticking it to his old team.

Penguins coach Michel Therien, clearly not the sentimental type, took Friday night's game in HSBC Arena as an opportunity to teach a lesson to a still-developing player.

Therien benched him.

"I'm sure he was expecting to play tonight," Therien said with a knowing smile.

Thorburn wasn't sure what to make of Therien's move. But as a 23-year-old trying to find his way in the NHL, he wasn't about to pout after the morning skate.

"It kind of [stinks], but that's the way it goes sometimes," Thorburn said. "I don't know how to take it except to let it motivate me. I'll try to work hard to get back into the lineup and make a difference."

Therien used the setting to grab Thorburn's attention. The 50th pick in the 2001 draft is close friends with many Sabres from his three seasons with the Rochester Americans. He played two games with Buffalo last season.

Therien said he wanted to see Thorburn corral his aggression and perform more like the playmaker who had 23 goals and 27 assists in 77 games with the Amerks last season.

Thorburn has three goals and two assists in 30 games, including a third-period winner in a Nov. 28 victory over the New York Islanders.

"We see potential in that kid," Therien said. "There's times that he's aggressive and we need him to be aggressive. Now that doesn't mean that we want him to fight. That means he has to skate hard, go to the net.

"We want him to make plays. We want him to become a complete player, not just a guy that's going to bang. Sometimes his focus isn't there and he's thinking probably too much about hitting."

Thorburn, who admitted he's still in awe when he glimpses Penguins owner Mario Lemieux around Mellon Arena, said the season has been educational.

"It's been tough at times, just the speed of the game, the ups and downs that you go through," he said. "It's a tough league to play in. . . . Just keep it simple, stick to the game plan, make sure the puck stays out of our net."


Second goalie Martin Biron is expected to start tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Air Canada Centre. The game would be Biron's first since going back-to-back on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23.

Biron's start will give Ryan Miller four days off until the next game Wednesday at the Chicago Blackhawks. Miller welcomes the rest.

"It does make a difference when you go to the rink and you don't have to be dialed in all day," Miller said. "You can be a little more loose, you can look forward to just taking the day and focusing on things you need to work on.

"Most days it's getting prepared and trying to find a balance. Before [today's] game I'll get on the ice and be able to work on some stuff and just let Marty do his thing."


The Sabres recalled winger Drew Stafford from Rochester and inserted him on the fourth line. He replaced tough guy Andrew Peters, who had played 13 of the previous 16 games and logged a season-high 8:38 against the Senators.


Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik of East Amherst has been banged up all season, but said he's starting to feel whole again. The rugged defender missed the first 11 games because of hand surgery and has played with nagging shoulder problems.

Orpik went into Friday's homecoming with two assists and 31 penalty minutes while averaging nearly 15 minutes of ice time through 27 games.


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