PENGUINS (14-7-0) at SENATORS (9-6-3)
Last 10 -- Penguins 5-5-0; Senators 4-4-2
Season series -- This is the second of four meetings. On Oct. 12, Tyler Kennedy scored twice and Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves to lead the Penguins to a 4-1 win at Scotiabank Place. Bill Guerin and Jordan Staal also scored for the Penguins, who won their third in a row. Pittsburgh won even though Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held off the scoresheet.
Big story -- A popular help wanted ad in Pittsburgh these days is "Healthy defensemen, report to Mellon Arena." On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced Jay McKee would be lost for 2-4 weeks with a finger infection; he joins Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski and Brooks Orpik in sick bay. The only healthy blueliner still around from Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit is Mark Eaton.
Penguins -- Pittsburgh is beginning a three-game road trip following a 2-1-0 homestand that concluded with a 5-2 victory against Anaheim on Monday.
Though the Penguins are battered and bruised, coach Dan Bylsma gave an update on the possible returns of Orpik and Gonchar following Wednesday's practice. "Brooks is progressing along, but not ready for (Thursday) night, we think," he said. "Both Brooks and Gonchar are moving along in the right direction, so hopefully we get one of those guys back for (Thursday's) game. It's possible and we can call someone up if need be."
Orpik and Gonchar have been cleared for contact in practice. Letang continues to skate with a red non-contact jersey.
"This portion of the day for me has turned into an injury report more than it has been a press conference about our team and who we're playing and what we're up against," Bylsma said after Wednesday's practice. "But you're always dealing with (injuries) throughout the year."
Senators -- This is the middle game of a five-game homestand for Ottawa that began with a 2-1 shootout loss against the Rangers, followed by a 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
"We liked our first 50 minutes of the game," coach Cory Clouston said after the win over Toronto. "We played our last 10 not to lose. You can't have success like that, but we got the two points. We needed (goalie Pascal Leclaire) and he was at his best."
Mike Fisher scored twice, including the tie-breaking goal in the second period. Milan Michalek also scored for the Senators, who earned their first win in three games. Alexei Kovalev, Alexandre Picard and Chris Campoli each had a pair of assists. Leclaire stopped 30 shots, including 15 in the third period when the Maple Leafs were pressing for the tying goal.
Who's hot -- For the Penguins, Sidney Crosby has a goal and 3 assists in his last two games, Jordan Staal has a goal and 2 assists in his last two games, Matt Cooke has 2 goals and an assist in his last two games, Pascal Dupuis has 2 goals in his last two games, Bill Guerin has 2 goals in his last two games, and Ruslan Fedotenko has a goal and 2 assists in his last three games. For the Senators, defenseman Brian Lee has 2 goals in his last five games, Daniel Alfredsson has 2 assists in his last five games, Jarkko Ruutu has 2 assists in his last four games, and Alexei Kovalev has 5 assists in his last six games.
Injury report -- For the Penguins, Gonchar (wrist) and Letang (undisclosed), and center Maxime Talbot (shoulder) are on injured reserve, and defensemen Goligoski (lower-body), Orpik (lower-body) and McKee (finger), and forwards Tyler Kennedy (undisclosed) and Chris Kunitz (lower-body) are day-to-day. For the Senators, defenseman Anton Volchenkov (elbow) is on injured reserve.
Stat pack -- Ottawa's game on Tuesday against Toronto was the 1,300th in franchise history; the Senators' all-time record is 571-554-115-60. … Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma is in his first full season as a coach. The Penguins are 32-10-4 in the regular season since Bylsma was promoted to Pittsburgh on Feb. 15, 2009. Under Bylsma, the Penguins are 17-5-1 at home and 15-5-3 on the road, and have a record of 20-1-1 when leading after two periods.
Puck drop: "Everybody in the lineup has to pick up their game right now. We all realize that." -- Mark Eaton, the only healthy regular Penguins defenseman, to the Tribune-Review