NEW YORK -- Chris Kunitz didn't take part in Thursday morning's practice, but Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma expects him to be in the lineup against the New York Rangers.
Eric Tangradi spent practice in Kunitz's spot on the Penguins' top line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, as Kunitz was termed under the weather by Bylsma.
With Kunitz absent, Tangradi was the net-front presence on the team's power play during practice. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward doesn't have a goal in five games this season, but standing around the crease with the likes of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice could help him break out of his slump.
"It’s going to be tough for the goalie to see around him and for the defensemen to move him," Crosby said. "He's got good hands in tight. If he's got rebound opportunities, he's going to be able to put them in. I think he's someone used to playing there; he's played there with us before. He should be pretty comfortable."
Tangradi doesn't care how the puck goes into the net.
"I feel like I've gained confidence from the way I've played, be it the beginning of this year or last year," Tangradi said. "Just to have one find the back of the net would definitely be encouraging. I've had a lot of quality chances and just haven't really found the back of the net. It definitely would kick-start something for me if I was to find the back of the net."
The Penguins' power play, despite ranking 11th in the NHL at 22.7 percent, has gone 1-for-14 in the last two games since starting the season 4-for-8 in wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.
Bylsma believes despite the funk, it's nothing to get worked up about this early in the season even with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang and James Neal on the ice at the same time.
"Great power plays fail 75 percent of the time," Bylsma said. "So I think if people expect that every time they get on the ice something magical is going to happen, that it's going to go in the net, it's a false assumption. It's not true. They have been part of a very good power play, but it doesn't mean we score every time."
Bylsma announced that Tomas Vokoun will make his third start of the season and second against the Rangers. On Jan. 20 at Madison Square Garden, Vokoun made 31 saves in a 6-3 victory.
Here are the lines and defense pairings the Penguins showed at practice with Kunitz not taking part.
Eric Tangradi – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Dustin Jeffrey – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Simon Despres – Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Ben Lovejoy- Deryk Engelland – Rob Bortuzzo
Bylsma said Bortuzzo will be in the lineup but said the rest of his team is a game-time decision. Lovejoy, Despres and Engelland were all in the lineup against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
If Kunitz is healthy enough to play, it's possible Jeffrey will be a healthy scratch. He has played in just two games this season.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo