In the statistics compiled by the NHL, there are two Penguins with an asterisk next to their name -- Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo.
They are the only rookies playing for the Penguins. Both are defensemen, which could be seen as impressive because they have cracked the lineup in an organization deep at defense or as a weakness because it can put a target on their backs.
"Both of them continue to make strides and go through growth," said Penguins assistant Todd Reirden, who oversees the defense and coached Bortuzzo for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League.
"They've both had a real positive impact on our defense."
The only other NHL team dressing two rookie defensemen with any regularity is the New York Islanders with Patrick Wiercioch and Mark Borowiecki.
There's no assurance Despres and Bortuzzo will dress for the home game tonight against Washington, although at least one should because Matt Niskanen remains out with what is believed to be an ankle injury.
Despres has been filling in for Niskanen in a pairing with Kris Letang. Bortuzzo lately had supplanted Ben Lovejoy in the lineup and has been paired with Deryk Engelland. Lovejoy was traded to Anaheim Thursday night, but the Penguins recalled defenseman Dylan Reese, meaning they still have eight defensemen.
Despres, 21 and a first-round draft pick in 2009, has two goals, four points and a plus-minus rating of plus-4 in eight games -- he played the first three, sat out two and has been in the lineup since.
Bortuzzo, 23 and a third-round pick in 2007, has a goal, three points and is plus-2 in four games. He might be something of a good-luck charm. After being a healthy scratch the first six games, he has played in the past four, which happens to coincide with the Penguins' current winning streak.


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