PITTSBURGH -- After the Pittsburgh Penguins were outscored, 9-1, by the Boston Bruins in losing the first two games of Eastern Conference Final at home, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma wasn't going to stand pat when it comes to personnel.
"There's going to be some changes to our lineup and some of our [line combinations]," Bylsma said after practice Tuesday at Consol Energy Center.
A virtual must-win Game 3 is Wednesday at TD Garden in Boston (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"We have to, as a group and as lines and as D pairings, get back to playing our game," Bylsma said. "We have to get back to playing good defensive hockey, we have to get back to playing well away from the puck -- and that's got to happen throughout our lineup. And I think you'll see some changes in our lines and a few guys being added to the lineup to do so."
PITTSBURGH -- Throughout the Pittsburgh Penguins' dressing room, a common theme was repeated: Stay the course, play the way we did over the first two periods of Game 1, things will be OK.
Be it a subtle message to his players along those lines or a simple evaluation leading to the same result, coach Dan Bylsma appears to agree when it comes to the personnel.
Judging by the line combinations and defense pairings during the morning skate, Pittsburgh will go with the same lineup it used for Saturday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final when it takes the ice for Game 2 against the Boston Bruins 8 p.m. Monday at Consol Energy Center.
"I don't think our mindset changes; I think we want more of the same," veteran forward Craig Adams said. "There's just some things we can do better, and we'll try to do those better."
PITTSBURGH --Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was asked if he had given any thought to making a goalie change heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.
"I watch the NHL Network, so I've heard it talked about," Bylsma said. "So yes."
When pressed further on if he'd considered going back to erstwhile starter Marc-Andre Fleury after starting Tomas Vokoun for the previous eight games, Bylsma said, "I heard people talk about it on the NHL Network, so it did cross my mind."
Other than listening to commentators on television, though, not nearly enough to make a switch.
PITTSBURGH -- When Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma made a switch of goalies early in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he did it with no preconceived notions on how long it would last.
It's been 25 days so far.
And just because Tomas Vokoun finally lost his second game -- his first while allowing more than two goals -- it doesn't mean Bylsma is prepared to turn back to erstwhile starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who lost his spot after Game 4 of the first round against the New York Islanders.
"We don't get this win, (but) the win and the loss isn't necessarily an indicator of what we're going to do with the goaltending situation," Bylsma said early Sunday afternoon, about 14 hours after the Penguins lost, 3-0, to the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Over the past week as the team practiced for the beginning of the Eastern Conference Final, several players said the Penguins peaked at the end of their series victory against the Ottawa Senators. Through five practices and a morning skate in advance of Game 1 against the Boston Bruins on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), Pittsburgh kept its line combinations and defense pairings stable.
Perhaps not surprisingly, they appear identical to what Bylsma utilized in Pittsburgh's 6-2 victory in Game 5 against Ottawa, the most recent game the Penguins have played. Other than veteran forward Brenden Morrow subbing in for rookie Beau Bennett after Game 4 of that series, Pittsburgh largely has kept its lineup and line combinations the same after a period of flux earlier in the postseason.
Against the best faceoff team in the NHL, forward Jussi Jokinen likely will be counted on to win critical draws. Another player who was a healthy scratch when the playoffs began, wing Tyler Kennedy has earned a regular spot back in his customary third-line role. Bennett, Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale appear to be the odd forwards out.
Veteran defenseman Mark Eaton was scratched for four consecutive games earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but has re-established himself as a stalwart in the lineup. Deryk Engelland and rookie Simon Despres are other future options.
Here are the Penguins' projected lines for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final:
PITTSBURGH -- It's been almost 39 months since Matt Cooke's brutal hit left Marc Savard with concussion symptoms that have yet to fully dissipate.
Cooke had a short answer when asked if the incident -- and resulting ire he's gotten from the Boston Bruins and their fans -- crossed his mind at all when it became apparent Cooke's Pittsburgh Penguins were going to play Boston in the Eastern Conference Final.
For Cooke, it's the second consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs series against a team -- and fan base -- that has expressed public indignation toward him. The forward's skate severed the Achilles tendon of Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson in February, and the teams faced each other in the conference semifinals.
That's OK. He admires them for it -- and takes pride in himself for being able to cheat too.
Boston leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs in faceoff percentage, having won 57.5 percent of its draws heading into the Eastern Conference Final, which begins 8 p.m. Saturday at Consol Energy Center against the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Jokinen is Pittsburgh's best faceoff man at 63.9 percent in the postseason. He has appeared in six of the Penguins' 11 playoff games; of players who have taken at least 92 faceoffs this postseason, the Bruins have the top three players in the NHL.
Talking with a smile and in a tone that was nothing but respect, Jokinen offered why those three are so successful.
"Lots of times, whoever's best on the faceoffs is whoever finds a way to cheat," Jokinen said. "Who cheats the most so they don't get thrown out.
"It's such a fine line finding out how much you can cheat -- some linesmen let you cheat a little more than others, and Bergeron is one of those guys who does that stuff pretty good and the linesmen let him do that stuff."
PITTSBURGH -- Douglas Murray doesn't input his week's plan into a Blackberry, and he doesn't plot out a training schedule with a pad and pencil.
Still, the hulking Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman said he prefers to look ahead when settling into a routine.
Finally, Murray and the Penguins know what's coming when.
The NHL released the schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals late Tuesday night, ending a four-day period in which the Penguins were in limbo. Pittsburgh, which eliminated the Ottawa Senators with a Game 5 conference semifinal victory Friday, opens the series with the Boston Bruins on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Consol Energy Center (NBC, CBC, RDS).
"You always want to know the schedule, for sure," Murray said. "You base your everyday decisions on it. It's not like I write up a schedule or anything, but when you've done this for as long as you have, you learn to manage your time. You know when it feels best for your body to get that extra massage that you might want or when it's time to rest and time to make sure you don't lay around all day.
"People change their routines once they know the schedule, and I think it's good we know now."
PITTSBURGH -- Prior to this season, it had been five years since Brenden Morrow experienced the thrill of playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Now that he is forced to wait up to a week between games, you'll have to forgive Morrow if he's feeling a little anxious.
"The engine's kind of idling right now," the Pittsburgh Penguins forward said on the third of what is expected to be five or six days before the team opens the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. "It's tough to shut it down this time of year. The games are coming fast and furious. So to sit and wait is tough for us. I guess it gives an opportunity for some little bumps and bruises to heal up. But I think everyone in the locker room's excited and ready to get started."
PITTSBURGH -- If the Ottawa Senators are at all worried about the possibility of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday being the final game of their captain's career, they aren't talking as if they are.
"He was dangling me in 'keep away' all morning," defenseman Marc Methot said, referring to the common morning-skate drill. "So if you ask me, he's got a couple years left under his belt."
The Senators kept a loose, upbeat posture throughout the morning skate and after it Friday, but a loss in Game 5 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) would have serious ramifications. Not only would it eliminate Ottawa from the Stanley Cup Playoffs and end its season, it could end the career of the franchise's longtime captain.
PITTSBURGH -- If the Ottawa Senators are going down, they're going down with their most talented and experienced forwards skating together to start a game in which they're facing elimination.
Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek have combined for 2,338 regular-season NHL games and 2,084 points. The trio was united for line rushes during the morning skate in advance of Friday's Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
With Ottawa down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, coach Paul MacLean said he'd have his tenured trio out on the ice for the opening faceoff in an attempt to steer momentum the Senators' way.
"That's a line we can always go back to," MacLean said. "Obviously they're a veteran threesome that's played a number of games in the League. We've always felt we could go to that, just because they're veteran players. The start of the game hasn't been very good for us these first four games; maybe if we start veterans out on the ice at the beginning of the game it can have a calming effect on the rest of the group."
PITTSBURGH -- It won't be for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday night, but Jason Spezza continues to inch closer to a return to the Ottawa Senators lineup.
The team won't rule out the chance his 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs debut will come Sunday.
Coach Paul MacLean said he expects Spezza to join the team for what figures to be an optional practice in Ottawa on Saturday. Spezza, who hasn't played since Jan. 27 because of a back injury that required surgery, has been skating on his own in Ottawa in recent days and MacLean reported the center is making progress.
"We will see him [Saturday] and we'll go through [Saturday's] practice and the pregame skate for Sunday and we'll see where it is," MacLean said after the morning skate Friday at Consol Energy Center. "But if he's available to us, you know, it's Jason Spezza. We're going to have him in the lineup if he's available."
"The best thing I can tell you is that James Neal never played the right side when he got here," Bylsma said. "He said, 'I only play the left.' I said, 'That's great, that's four or five minutes a game you won't be playing with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.'
"He circled back around and he said, 'Hey, I'll try the right.'"
Bylsma's point was that forwards can make it work if put in the right situation -- even if on an unfamiliar wing. And with the Penguins tending to stick with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis as Crobsy's wings, that leaves Neal and Iginla for Malkin.
Nice consolation prize. From one Hart Trophy winner to another as your center.
"I've been really lucky to get a chance to play with both Sid and Geno," said Iginla, who was acquired from the Calgary Flames in a March 28 trade. "The lines do shake up however the flow of the game is gong. We're prepared to play whatever the dynamic is."
PITTSBURGH -- Over the 48 hours since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean has taken virtually any opportunity to talk about how his team's competition level and physicality needed to improve if they had a chance of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Enter 6 feet, 2 inches and 230 pounds of competition level and physicality.
PITTSBURGH -- While not flatly ruling hulking defenseman Eric Grybe out for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators coach coach Paul MacLean said the team has contingency plans for who might take Gryba's place.
"If Gryba's not available, [Mike] Lundin and [Andre] Benoit are here with us," MacLean said after an optional practice Wednesday at Consol Energy Center. "[Patrick] Wiercioch, right now, I'd say is not available with a lower-body injury, but we'll have discussions on that."
Gryba left the ice after a collision with Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik late during the second period of Pittsburgh's 4-1 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday. The Senators said he has an upper-body injury that will be evaluated.
So the seventh-seeded Senators know what style of play they will turn to in hopes of succeeding in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. Game 1 is Tuesday ((7:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, NBCSN) here at Consol Energy Center.
"Giving them odd-man rushes, with their skill, is not going to work to our favor," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "So we want to play a disciplined game -- but also not just play a passive game. We want to get engaged and get the forecheck going. That's how we're going to generate our chances."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said it's not just because of Kennedy's inspired play late in the previous round, either.
During the morning skate in advance of Game 1 Tuesday, Pittsburgh showed the same line combinations and defense pairings it did during practice Monday. That means the only apparent change from the lineup Bylsma employed for victories in Games 5 and 6 of the first-round win against the New York Islanders is Deryk Engelland in for Simon Despres on defense.
"It's not just what happened in the first round for our team and the players who played in the first round when it comes to our lineup and the decisions we make," Bylsma said.
PITTSBURGH -- The man at the forefront might have been the only person explicitly and formally informed of a decision from Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma that everyone awaited.
Tomas Vokoun informed reporters Tuesday morning that he would be the team's starting goaltender against the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, NBCSN).
"I'm not surprised," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "He played really well in what was a tough situation to come into like he did last series. He came in after having not played in a while and shut the door."
With the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the teams starting Tuesday, issues surrounding Cooke and the Senators -- Cooke is blamed for the Achilles injury that sidelined Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson for more than two months -- have become an afterthought among the players.
"That's all outside the locker room," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "It's media, it's Twitter, it's Facebook. It's not stuff that [concerns us]."
"The off-ice stuff and accusations and that stuff, it does not play into the series for our team," added Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "We're definitely not going to make it a part of the series for our team. Whether there's emotion there on their side -- I don't think so. I think they'll be focused on winning four hockey games."
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby went to the dressing room with two minutes to play in the second period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders after blocking a shot with his left foot.
The team provided no immediate update on his condition or status.
The Penguins coach had Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale taking part in line rushes, and Simon Despres was paired with Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang for the morning skate Thursday in advance of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series that is tied two games apiece.
Keeping with his policy, Bylsma did not discuss his lineup with the media. But Kennedy and Vitale were talking as if they were on the verge of making their 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs debuts.
"For sure, excited to get back out there, excited to get with the guys," Vitale said. "It's been tough watching in the press box, as anyone will tell you.
"I'm not going to change anything. My game is pretty simple: a lot of speed, lot of energy, some tenacity, be responsible in the defensive zone, and kind of be a lift for the guys."
PITTSBURGH -- With more than 23 minutes of ice time per game suddenly gone from the New York Islanders blue line, more than one defenseman will have to step up.
Andrew MacDonald, who led the Islanders in average ice time throughout the regular season, is out with an injury that Newsday reported is a broken hand that will keep him out for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As New York preps to face the No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN), a sizable hole must be plugged.
"It's a big loss," veteran defenseman Radek Martinek said. "You can't replace a guy like that. Just you have to fill in the best you can."
The 36-year-old, a 14-year NHL veteran, went 13-4-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts during the regular season for Pittsburgh, which signed him to a two-year contract this offseason to back up longtime Penguins starter Marc-Andre Fleury.
But Fleury has struggled in this series, including allowing six goals on 24 shots in a 6-4 loss on Long Island in Game 4 on Tuesday that evened the best-of-7 series at two games apiece. That ballooned Fleury's postseason goals-against average to 3.40. Since a shutout in Game 1, Fleury has allowed 14 goals in the past three games, losing two.
Vokoun will be making his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six years.
"We brought Tomas Vokoun in to play big games for us and be a goaltender we could count on to go in and play big games," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's done that this year for us and he has been very good against the Islanders in three games he's played against the Islanders. We're getting a guy who's real capable at going in and has been a great goalie for us."
PITTSBURGH -- You'd think the last thing the New York Islanders would want coming off a 5-0 loss to a team that has won 24 of its past 28 games is for that opponent to welcome back its leading scorer and NHL MVP candidate into the lineup.
"He's one of the best players in the world," Nielsen said after Friday's morning skate. "So it's a challenge -- and that's something that everyone who's involved with sports loves. It makes you more excited. It's always fun playing against the good players."
Crosby told reporters he was cleared to play, and the Penguins' official website and Twitter account announced he was returning in Game 2 to play for the first time since sustaining a broken jaw during his first shift of a game against the Islanders on March 30.
PITTSBURGH -- With the New York Islanders having produced all of two goals over their past three games, coach Jack Capuano acknowledged there could be a shakeup in his forward lineup.
The top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes combined for one goal over the final two regular-season games and Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. As the Islanders search for answers for Game 2 on Friday, swapping out Tavares' linemates remains firmly on the table.
"We haven't generated too much from that line," Capuano said, "so you probably could see some movement around."
As NHL coaches are wont to do during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Capuano said he would not discuss lineup changes specifically. But he did drop some hints.
PITTSBURGH -- As if being heavy underdogs to what they hear many people are calling the Stanley Cup favorites for a first-round playoff series wasn't motivation enough to the New York Islanders, two of their players have other reasons to conjure up some dislike for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
They don't, however, plan on resorting to use it.
Two players who, to varying degrees, have served in significant roles for New York this season were let go by the Pittsburgh organization for no compensation.
Forward Matt Moulson went unsigned by the club after being taken in the ninth round of the 2003 NHL Draft, and defenseman Brian Strait was waived by the Penguins on the eve of the start of their regular season earlier this year.
PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps New York Islanders forward Matt Moulson put it best when he said of his team, "I think we're maybe a little naive at how hard it is to win in the playoffs."
The Pittsburgh Penguins finished the regular season with 17 more points, 12 more wins and 26 more goals than New York did. But perhaps the most glaring area in which the Penguins outpace the Islanders as the teams prepare for a first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series is in postseason experience.
One card Islanders coach Jack Capuano has to play to counter the Penguins' experience is 36-year-old Marty Reasoner. Reasoner did not play the final 10 games of the regular season, but Capuano made it sound like he intends to insert the forward into the lineup for Game 1 Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).
"Marty Reasoner for us is a guy that down the stretch we didn't want to change too much in lineup, but when you look at his experience and the leadership qualities in the room and you look at his faceoffs ... and with the lineup that we have and the youth that we have, it would be a good situation to have Marty Reasoner back in there," Capuano said.
Crosby won't play in the regular-season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes, but he might have learned whom coach Dan Bylsma has in store as his linemates for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They appear to be very familiar ones.
James Neal said he will be on the right wing of Evgeni Malkin with Jarome Iginla on the left side Saturday in Neal's return after missing eight games because of a concussion. Bylsma has said the Penguins are using the regular-season finale as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the postseason.
Crosby's wings for most of the season, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, appear to be together with Jussi Jokinen. When Jokinen was acquired from Carolina at the NHL Trade Deadline earlier this month, the Penguins made no secret Jokinen was brought in as a stopgap -- and as insurance -- for an injured Crosby. That would signal Kunitz and Dupuis will be with Crosby when he is cleared to play.
PITTSBURGH -- Jordan Staal isn't sure what emotions he'll experience when, as expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins roll a tribute video to him during a first-period stoppage in play Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
Traded to the Carolina Hurricanes after declining to sign a contract extension with the Penguins last June, Staal also isn't sure how the Pittsburgh partisan crowd will receive him.
"All I can say is that I had a lot of good memories here and I had a lot of fun playing here," Staal said following his final morning skate of the season Saturday.
The Hurricanes wrap up their season with a 7:30 p.m. game at the Penguins, Staal's former team that enters next week's Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.
Staal spent the first six seasons of his NHL career with Pittsburgh and was part of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2009. This is his first game in Pittsburgh since being traded.
"It's going to be a little different for him because he's used to being on the other side dressing for the Penguins," teammate and brother Jared Staal said. "I'm sure he'll try to enjoy it. It'll be a little weird at first, but I'm sure he's moved on a bit. He's a Hurricane now."
PITTSBURGH -- Acknowledging there is a benefit to seeing game action before the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma stressed that none of his injured players will be rushed back and that all have shown an ability to seamlessly rejoin the lineup after long layoffs.
NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), reigning 40-goal scorer James Neal (concussion), 25-minute-per-game defenseman Paul Martin (hand) and 2011-12 Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) each have missed time. All but Malkin have been ruled out for Wednesday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens. Malkin was termed a game-time decision by Bylsma but his role in recent practices and Wednesday's morning skate suggests he is unlikely to play.
With six games and exactly two weeks between now and the projected first game of the opening round of the playoffs at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said there won't be any rash decisions made concerning Malkin, Crosby, Neal or Martin.
"We're talking about players who are good hockey players and can get in games and be factors in games, and they're going to be that in their first game, whenever that is," Bylsma said. "I feel comfortable they're going to be able to get in their spots and play and be factors."
Defenseman Yannick Weber will play for the Canadiens for the third time this season. It will be Weber's second appearance since January and first since March 7. Weber replaces Nathan Beaulieu after Montreal allowed 12 goals in losing its past two games.
"It's not like it's my first game ever, but it's been a while," Weber said. "For me, it's just go back and find my game and take it shift by shift. Normally it takes a couple shifts, and then you're back as if nothing happened. I'm excited and I'm ready to go."
The trio got a crash course in playing together during the morning skate Friday.
"There's obviously a little adjustment period, but me and [Dupuis], we're going to play the same style," Kunitz said. "We're not ad libbing a whole bunch. We're going to be in certain areas and putting pucks in certain places. As soon as we get a feel for each other, we're going to have success."
PITTSBURGH -- New York Rangers coach John Tortorella said there would be no changes in the lineup for the second of a home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
After New York dominated Pittsburgh in a 6-1 victory Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, why would there be?
Forwards Ryane Clowe and Derick Brassard and defenseman John Moore -- all new additions to the team -- combined for eight points in the win but continue to adapt to the Rangers' system. Each was acquired via trade during the hours preceding the game Wednesday.
"Gradually they're kind of instilling the basics in us," 22-year-old Moore said. "That's pretty refreshing, especially for a young guy like myself, for them to do that. Because if they're giving you too much information you might be thinking too much.
"[Tortorella] has been great in terms of just making sure we're going out, playing our game. When we were walking out of the locker room as we were going out for warm-ups he had a big smile on today: 'Go have fun.' So that's what we tried to do."
Here is what the Rangers' lineup will look like Friday:
Kennedy skated during practice Tuesday morning at center, between Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. However, coach Dan Bylsma said he could insert Dustin Jeffrey on that line if there's an important faceoff, as Kennedy is not an experienced center, and has taken just 16 faceoffs this season.
Crosby sustained a broken jaw during a game Sunday against the New York Islanders and will be out indefinitely. Coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby was released from the hospital Monday morning.
Martin will undergo surgery and will be out of action for approximately six weeks.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are begin in 4-1/2 weeks.
Deryk Engelland regained his spot in the lineup, replacing Martin against the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. The Penguins also are without Kris Letang, the NHL's leading scorer among defensemen, for at least a week because of a lower-body injury.
PITTSBURGH -- Based on a report from the Winnipeg Sun and observations at the morning skate, it appears the Winnipeg Jets will go with backup goaltender Al Montoya over Ondrej Pavelec in Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a move likely based on past history at Consol Energy Center.
Pavelec has allowed a total of three goals in winning the past two games, but last season he allowed 13 goals in 4 1/2 periods at Consol in losses to the Penguins. He is 0-4-0 with a 5.95 goals-against average in the 3-year-old facility.
The projected lines and defense pairings for Thursday night's game:
PITTSBURGH -- More than 13 years after making his NHL debut, Brenden Morrow felt something during his drive to the rink Tuesday morning that he hadn't felt much since breaking into the League as a 20-year-old in 1999.
"I hadn't felt them in a long time," Morrow said after the morning skate Tuesday, in advance of his Pittsburgh Penguins debut Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. "But those are good feelings. They're not maybe the best feelings in your body, but you know you're alive, you know you're feeling something when those butterflies show up."
Bylsma finally acknowledged a nagging injury to Matt Cooke, who has regularly sat out morning skates in recent weeks but has not missed any games. Assuming he is healthy, the addition of Morrow means one player will be left out.
Bennett was occupying the spot Cooke usually holds on the third line. With Jeffrey and Joe Vitale needed as true centers, Tanner Glass playing plenty of minutes on the penalty kill, and Tyler Kennedy's strong play of late, the best guess is that rookie Bennett will be the odd man out.
Here are the projected lines and defensemen pairings for Tuesday night's game between the Penguins and Canadiens at Consol Energy Center:
Briere, who has five goals and eight assists in 26 games, officially was listed as "day-to-day" by general manager Paul Holmgren. Briere did not accompany the team on the trip to Pittsburgh.
Briere does not have a point in seven games, and is without a goal since Feb. 18, a span of 13 contests. Briere has 38 points -- tied for third-most against any opponent -- in 47 career games against the Penguins.
The reigning NHL MVP and scoring champion will miss his eighth consecutive game.
"I'm out until I'm 100 percent," Malkin said after participating in another morning skate with the team Sunday. "No rush. I have a workout program with my doctor and (Penguins strength and conditioning coach) Mike Kadar. I played a little in the corners today. It's still a little sore, but we will see next game."
The Penguins carry an 11-game winning streak into the game against the rival Flyers. Pittsburgh has won all seven of the most recent games Malkin has missed and is 9-2-0 without him this season.
Now that the time has come for Laich to make his season debut, Washington's alternate captain isn't interested in slowly working his way into the lineup.
"We don't have the luxury of taking the time to get back into form," Laich said Tuesday, in advance of the Capitals' game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). "I'm expected to be certain things when I'm on the ice, and anything less than that is not acceptable."
Laich has been activated from injured reserve and will play against the Penguins. It will be his first game action since November, when he injured his groin playing for a team in Switzerland.
"I have been in 'season mode' since September," Laich said. "I just want to make a seamless transition to be part of the team. I don't want this to be any sort of distraction to the guys or anything -- I'm just going to come in, play my game and try to contribute to a win."
Across the Capitals' locker room, it was clear Laich's return was welcomed. Washington (12-15-1) entered Tuesday seven points out of the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang will not return Sunday against the Boston Bruins because of a lower-body injury, the team announced.
The NHL's scoring leader among defensemen, Letang has three goals and 25 assists in 26 games this season. He recorded a shot on goal, a blocked shot and a minus-1 rating in 7:02 of ice time during the first period against the Bruins.
Letang, who missed three games in early February because of a lower-body injury, has at least one assist in seven of his past eight games -- all Pittsburgh victories. He is third in the NHL in assists behind teammate Sidney Crosby and the Tampa Bay Lightning's Martin St. Louis.
Letang's next point will be the 200th of his career. He has a seven-game assist streak in home games.
Malkin, the NHL's reigning MVP and scoring champion, will sit out his fifth consecutive game and for the ninth time in the Penguins' past 12 contests. The team has said the latest injury is unrelated to a concussion that kept him out of four games from Feb. 24-March 2.
Malkin, who has four goals and 19 assists in 21 games this season, is believed to have sustained the current injury while absorbing a check from the Toronto Maple Leafs' James van Riemsdyk late in the third period of a game March 9. Malkin took one shift after the hit, which occurred along the boards in the neutral zone, but did not play the final two minutes of regulation nor during overtime.
The Penguins are 6-2 without Malkin this season, winning each of the past four games without the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner. Pittsburgh (21-8-0) has won eight consecutive games overall and can take over sole possession of the Eastern Conference lead with a win Sunday against Boston.
The No. 2 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Malkin had 50 goals and 59 assists last season and has 551 points in 448 career games. With Malkin out, the Penguins have used Dustin Jeffrey and Brandon Sutter in his place centering their second line.
With Malkin down, the Penguins have not had any healthy scratches among their forwards over the past week. If any of their forwards were to be injured, the team would be forced to dress seven defensemen unless it made a roster move.
Malkin, who has an upper-body injury, will miss his second consecutive game when Pittsburgh hosts the Boston Bruins 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. He apparently sustained the injury -- likely to his right shoulder -- while colliding with the boards after a hit from the Toronto Maple Leafs' James van Riemsdyk late during a game Saturday night.
The reigning NHL scoring champion and MVP reported he "feels pretty good" after going through an optional practice at the Penguins' suburban practice facility.
"It was good to practice on the ice today with the team and [absorb] contact a little bit," Malkin said in his first comments to the media since losing his balance and sliding violently into the boards during the third period of a win against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 22. "And I feel good now."
"James is an elite guy at getting open and finding areas, and that doesn't change who the centerman is," Bylsma said. "He's going to do that and that's what he's going to be able to do playing next to Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin."
Neal will begin Sunday's game on Crosby's right wing, with Chris Kunitz in his customary spot to Crosby's left.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are not ruling out that star center Evgeni Malkin has a concussion, and the organization is following protocol to identify if he indeed does.
Coach Dan Bylsma indicated they are encouraged Malkin's condition since crashing into the boards during Friday night's game is not as dire as previously reported.
"He will be continue to be evaluated by doctors tonight before the game," Bylsma said following the Penguins' morning skate in preparation for the matchup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "At this point in time, we have not ruled out a concussion. But I am happy to report that he has not been suffering from headaches or disorientation."
That is in contrast to a report from Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Saturday that cited multiple unnamed sources close to Malkin.
Asked to clarify his assertion that Malkin has not experienced headaches or disorientation, Bylsma said: "I mean at any point, yes."
The Lightning did not have a morning skate Sunday, but they are expected to stick with the same lineup that produced a 5-2 victory at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday -- with the exception of Lindback being back in goal.
PITTSBURGH -- Well into his third season of playing in North America, Jacob Markstrom has found his comfort level. A 2008 second-round pick of the Florida Panthers, Markstrom believes he's ready to make his mark in the National Hockey League.
Recalled from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio earlier this week, Markstrom reportedly will make his NHL season debut for the Panthers on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Florida coach Kevin Dineen was not available to confirm who will start in goal Friday for the Panthers, who are coming off a win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. The Miami Herald reported Thursday that Markstrom will be in goal against the Penguins. Dineen is expected to announce the starter 90 minutes before game-time.
Markstrom played seven of his eight NHL games last season, going 2-4-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. But he says he's a different goalie now than he was last season.
"Obviously, you want to play every night," said Jeffrey, a 2007 sixth-round pick of the club who turns 25 next week. "So it's an opportunity tonight, if I have a good game hopefully I can stay in the lineup. You want to play every night you don't like sitting out  out of  games [so far this season]."
Jeffrey likely will replace Joe Vitale as the center on the line with Glass and Adams. His game differs slightly from that of Vitale, who is smaller and quicker but doesn't possess the skill package the 6-1, 205-pound Jeffrey does.
PITTSBURGH -- The Philadelphia Flyers won't have to wait much longer for their leading goal-scorer from a season ago.
Wing Scott Hartnell was cleared to return to practice Wednesday and is on track to play in a game in a week to 10 days, general manager Paul Holmgren said. Hartnell missed his 15th consecutive game Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hartnell, who had a career-high 37 goals last season, has been recovering from a broken left foot sustained in a Jan. 22 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
PITTSBURGH -- The dressing room is a different one because the old building across the street was torn down. But when Mark Eaton walked into the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room at Consol Energy Center, he felt right at home.
Eaton, a 35-year-old, 12-year NHL veteran, skated with the Penguins on Wednesday and will remain with the team he won the 2009 Stanley Cup with for at least the next few days.
Although Eaton did not sign a contract with Pittsburgh, he has spent the previous few weeks with the organization's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, playing in six games with the Baby Penguins.
"I've always expressed interest (in joining the Penguins), and there's some interest on the other side as well," Eaton said. "Other teams in the League and guys have been doing this -- unsigned and kind of skating with the team to have them get a look at them. Hopefully I can impress a little bit and end up here. That's the long-term goal."
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are close to adding more than 46 minutes of ice time back to their blue line.
Defensemen Matt Niskanen (eight games) and Kris Letang (three games) were activated off injured reserve Wednesday. They have missed time in recent weeks due to lower-body injuries. Both practiced with the team Tuesday and took part in the morning skate Wednesday, and were termed "game-time decisions" for the Wednesday night game against the Ottawa Senators.
"[Letang and Niskanen] are moving close to being able and ready to play," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said earlier Wednesday. "We'll see both what the doctor says and (make) a game-time decision on the lineup."
Dylan Reese was returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
Just 13 games into his tenure for his hometown team, the 27-year-old Methot was an alternate captain for the Senators in their 2-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.
Methot is a veteran of 288 NHL games since breaking into the League in the 2006-07 season. All his experience came with the Columbus Blue Jackets until being acquired by the Senators in a trade this past summer.
For the 12th time in 14 games this season, Anderson will start. It's the second time this season he's playing both ends of a back-to-back; he allowed three total goals in two wins Jan. 29-30 against Washington and Montreal. Coach Paul MacLean swapped Benoit in for Wiercioch as the only lineup change from Tuesday's 2-0 win against Buffalo. "We want to make sure we keep both of them playing," MacLean said.
Michalek was a last-minute scratch due to a lower-body injury.
Letang has missed the past three games and Niskanen the most recent eight (both with lower-body injuries). Both skated with the team during practices the past two days, and each sounded encouraged he could play Wednesday night. Both are on injured reserve, however, so roster moves will be required if either or both is cleared. Letang sounded a bit more optimistic about his ability to play than Niskanen -- but neither is considered a sure thing, either way. Reese will play if both remain out; it's a toss-up as to whom the odd man out is if both suit up. The best guess is Bortuzzo.
Also of note is that Fleury will start for the fourth time in the past five games.
PITTSBURGH --Johan Hedberg enters Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh's Uptown neighborhood, takes a peek across Center Avenue and sees an expanse of asphalt.
"It's hard to imagine what was there when you just see a parking lot," Hedberg said, referring to the former Mellon Arena.
Less than 12 years ago, the now-New Jersey Devils goalie was living one of the top feel-good stories of the Pittsburgh Penguins' 46-year-history on that very site. Acquired for seldom-used defenseman Bobby Dollas from the San Jose Sharks' International Hockey League affiliate in Winnipeg in March, Hedberg quickly became the go-to goalie for the Stanley Cup-contending Penguins over the next two months.
"It's been (12) years, but for me it's a special place to come back to," said Hedberg, who will start against his former team Sunday night. "(The Penguins) always are going to be special for me."
Hedberg made his NHL debut four days after the trade and went 7-1-1 down the stretch for a Pittsburgh team that boasted Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Alex Kovalev, but had a question mark in net. He immediately filled that need and was a big reason why the Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
He became a folk hero in Pittsburgh. The trade went down so fast he was still wearing the powder-blue helmet of the Manitoba Moose for the Penguins. Fans at Mellon Arena chanted "Mooooooooose" after Hedberg saves. Some wore foam moose ears.
"I thought it was a great story back then, especially because of the Moose chant," said Martin Brodeur, the player Hedberg now backs up on the Devils.
Brodeur's Devils ended Hedberg's run in 2001 with a five-game series win in the conference finals.
"We knew they were riding a hot goalie," Brodeur said Sunday. "We were fortunate enough to be able to solve him, I guess, in that series."
Hedberg said that as time goes by, he gets asked about his magical run less and less. He added that trips to Pittsburgh aren't nearly as emotional for him now that Mellon Arena has been razed.
"It doesn't have the same feeling with the new building," Hedberg said. "Not like coming back to the old Igloo."
The results haven't been the same, either. Hedberg has never won in Pittsburgh since being traded by the Penguins to the Vancouver Canucks for a second-round draft choice in August 2003.
He allowed four goals on 29 shots of a loss in his most recent start here on Oct. 22, 2011. Hedberg also made two starts in the three-year-old building during the 2010-11 season. In all, Hedberg is 0-3 with a 3.35 goals-against average and .889 save percentage at Consol Energy Center.
At Mellon Arena after leaving the Penguins, Hedberg was 0-1-1 with a 4.87 GAA and .848 save percentage.
The Devils are out to complete a home-and-home weekend sweep of the Penguins, with whom they are in a tight battle for first place in the Atlantic Division. With Brodeur in net Saturday, New Jersey went 2-for-10 on the power play in a 3-1 win.
"I don't think you're going to see the same kind of game tonight as we did last night," Hedberg said. "I'm sure they don't want to spend the time in the box as they did. We have to clear our minds and know what their tendencies are, but it's more focusing on what we want to do."
Niskanen joined more than a dozen teammates for an optional morning skate at Consol Energy Center Sunday but remains on injured reserve due to an ankle injury sustained 14 days ago.
"It is feeling better, and I'm able to do more and more things on the ice every day," Niskanen said. "I'd like to think I'm close -- but we'll just have to wait and see how I progress. I've got a few more steps to take."
Coach Dan Bylsma said Niskanen "is progressing, and we'll see how he continues to go." Niskanen has been skating on his own with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar over the past week.
"It feels good to be out with the team again," said Niskanen, who had a goal and two assists in five games this season. "Mike Kadar does a good job -- but that gets old pretty quick."
Niskanen, who signed a two-year contract extension with Pittsburgh this past summer, opened the season with Kris Letang as his partner on the Penguins' top pairing. Letang will miss his third game due to a lower-body injury Sunday.
Morrow was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this morning, so it's very possible the 2011 first-round pick makes his NHL debut tonight. Coach Dan Bylsma termed his recall "insurance" for "bumps and bruises" among Pittsburgh's defensemen. Martin was the only defenseman to skip the team's morning skate.
PITTSBURGH -- Could yet another young defenseman be making his Pittsburgh Penguins debut Sunday night?
Joe Morrow, the club's first-round draft choice 20 months ago, was recalled from Pittsburgh's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre-Scranton. The 20-year-old had two goals and eight assists in 39 AHL games in his first season as a pro. In his past nine games, though, Morrow was a plus-5.
"He can skate, he's big, he's a strong guy," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's highlighted for his shot and offensive ability and skating ability -- which is very high-end -- but he's also a big body.
"This game today, if Joe Morrow were to get into the game, you're going to see some power-play time, see some skating ability and see him being able to handle guys down low."
Bylsma said Morrow was recalled for "insurance" because the Penguins' defense corps has "some bumps and bruises." Bylsma, as is his policy, said the lineup for the Sunday evening game against the New Jersey Devils will not be announced until gametime.
Paul Martin was the only healthy defenseman not to participate in what was an optional morning skate Sunday. There was no immediate indication Martin had any injury, and he amassed 28:49 of ice time -- by far a team high -- in Saturday's 3-1 loss at New Jersey. It would not be atypical for Martin to skip an optional skate under such circumstances. (The Penguins' top five forwards, for example, did not take part.)
Brooks Orpik was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in Saturday's game, but it seems highly unlikely he is in danger of being suspended. Orpik said the penalty was for saying something to Devils winger David Clarkson after Clarkson hit him behind the play.
"They've done a great job," Niskanen said. "Simon Despres has been awesome, Robert Bortuzzo has been really solid, Dylan Reese has done really well in the short time he's been here. It's fun to watch young guys come in and have success ... they'll continue to get better."
To make room for Morrow on the roster, Letang was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Tuesday, when he most recently appeared in a game. He has missed the past two contests.
Morrow was a first-team Western Hockey League All-star last season, when he had 64 points (17 goals, 47 assists) in 62 games and added 17 points in 22 playoff contests. He was the 23rd pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Poti was replaced in the lineup by veteran Roman Hamrlik, who had not played since Jan. 24. The 38-year-old has one assist and is a minus-1 in three games this season.
Poti appeared in five of the Capitals' 10 games this season after not playing in the NHL for more than two years due to a groin injury. He had recorded one assist. A team official characterized Poti's status as day to day.
Letang, who is tied for second among NHL defensemen in scoring with nine points, is averaging 25:07 of ice time for the first-place Penguins. He had an assist during 25:19 in Tuesday's 4-2 victory at the New York Islanders and did not visibly appear to be physically hindered.
After he prematurely left the morning skate, Letang was not available to the media. Coach Dan Bylsma, as is his policy, did not comment.
Reese said it's no coincidence he became a professional hockey player.
"I grew up here watching the Pens, and I'm a product of the early Stanley Cups in '91 and '92," the newest Penguins defenseman said Thursday. "It's really a dream come true to be up here playing -- and hopefully playing in the new building here with the Penguins, so I'm excited."
Reese was recalled from Pittsburgh's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wednesday night and joined the Penguins for their morning skate the following day in advance of their game against the Washington Capitals.
There is no guarantee he will be in the lineup Thursday -- coach Dan Bylsma traditionally has been loath to shake up a winning formula, and the Penguins have won four straight -- but Reese is hoping he'll have his chance to make an impression soon.
Coach Dan Bylsma traditionally has been loathe to make any changes in his lineup during a winning streak, and the Penguins are riding a stretch of four consecutive victories. Reese, a native of suburban Pittsburgh, was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League late Wednesday. During the morning skate, he alternated shifts with Bortuzzo alongside Engelland. Also, Letang left the ice early, but it is not expected he has an ailment that will keep him from playing tonight.
Erskine is serving the final game of a three-game suspension for an elbow on Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds on Friday. Coach Adam Oates was coy about the forward lines, but he did say that the lineup would remain the same.
PITTSBURGH -- Travis Hamonic acknowledges that he "couldn't move" when he first sustained an ankle injury Sunday. Two days later, though, the New York Islanders defenseman declared himself "ready to play" in Tuesday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hamonic, the 22-year-old who is averaging more than 24 minutes of ice time per game, participated in the morning skate at Consol Energy Center two days after "rolling over" his foot during the third period of an overtime loss at the Winnipeg Jets.
Hamonic was in the lineup when the Islanders took the ice Tuesday night.
"I wouldn't be putting myself in a situation like that if I didn't feel ready to play," Hamonic said after the morning skate. "Obviously, (Pittsburgh) has a lot of skill up front and a lot of power and a lot of speed, more than anything, and I wouldn't want to be putting myself at risk physically and also don't want to be a liability out there for the guys. If (health) was an issue I wouldn't even be (taking part in the morning skate), so it's a dead issue."
Hamonic is expected to play with regular partner Andrew MacDonald. Capuano said Thomas Hickey will remain in the lineup after making his NHL debut Sunday at the Winnipeg Jets. Joe Finley will be the odd man out.
Casey Cizikas reclaimed his spot on the fourth line, with Eric Boulton a healthy scratch.
The Islanders also announced that forward Jesse Joensuu will miss the next 5-7 weeks after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. Joensuu has not played for New York yet this season and is suspended because his injury was sustained while playing in Finland during the lockout.
PITTSBURGH -- In part because of the outstanding organizational depth at the position, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been carrying eight defensemen.
Now that the first injury of the season has hit the team, the fruits of that depth will begin to be realized.
Matt Niskanen will be out for two-to-four weeks with an ankle injury sustained early in the Penguins' 2-1 shootout win Sunday at Ottawa. In the immediate future, that means rookie Simon Despres regains his spot in the lineup. The former first-round pick will be paired with Kris Letang to open the game Tuesday against the New York Islanders.
"He's an exceptionally good defenseman -- he talks a lot out there, he's easy to play with," Despres said of Letang. "It's going to be a lot of fun."
Despres, 21, spent the early part of the abbreviated training camp paired with Letang, whom many pundits view as a Norris Trophy candidate. But when the season opened, it was Niskanen who was to the left of Letang.
Despres did, however, make the team in what was a somewhat surprising move only because he did not need to clear waivers to be sent back down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Ironically, the player who lost out on the Penguins' decision to keep Despres in the NHL, Brian Strait, was claimed by the Islanders, is taking a regular shift next to captain Mark Streit and will face his former team Tuesday.
A favorite of coach Dan Bylsma for obvious reasons -- Despres' pure skating and puckhandling skills are surpassed only by Letang among Penguins defensemen -- Despres averaged almost 10 minutes of ice time through Pittsburgh's first three games. However, he was a healthy scratch in the Penguins' two most recent contests in favor of more stay-at-home Ben Lovejoy.
"[Despres] played well for us; he did some good things when he was in the lineup," Bylsma said. "He wasn't reprimanded when he got out -- 'You're not playing well.' There was just some consistency in his game and decision-making that would make him better at both ends of the rink, defending and offensively. That's part of his maturation process."
A left-handed shot, Despres will play on the left side with right-handed Letang on the right. Niskanen, a righty, liked taking one-timers from Letang when he played on Letang's left side. Letang shrugged off any suggestion of a readjustment period to a new defense partner.
"It's a different partner, but we all play the same system, so it's going to be the same," Letang said.
"I think (Despres) did pretty well [in the first three games he played]. He just needs to focus on his defensive game. Everybody knows he's got great abilities and got great skills and has got a good shot and can skate really well. I think he just needs to get better defensively and learning the game better."
Bylsma said Despres can fill Niskanen's void at the point of the Penguins' second power-play unit. Still, even if he is usually paired Tuesday with Letang, Despres doesn't expect Letang-like minutes.
Letang played 29:10 Sunday in Ottawa, and veterans Brooks Orpik (28:28) and Paul Martin (31:06) also logged considerable time. Though the ice time numbers probably won't be that gaudy, expect the trend of those three playing significantly more than Despres, Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland to continue.
"We've got a lot of good defensemen on this team," Despres said. "We've got to get ice time to a lot of people."
PITTSBURGH - Here are the projected lineups for a game Tuesday night between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center:
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Brad Boyes
David Ullstrom - Keith Aucoin - Colin McDonald
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Casey Cizikas
Mark Streit - Brian Strait
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Matt Carkner
Injured: Josh Bailey, Jesse Joensuu
Scratched: Eric Boulton, Joe Finley, Radek Martinek
Hamonic's appearance at the morning skate was something of a surprise after he injured an ankle during a game Sunday at Winnipeg, but he said he was ready to go. Hickey performed well enough in 21 shifts during his NHL debut Sunday to warrant another game. After a one-game layoff, Cizikas is back in for Boulton.
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Tyler Kennedy – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Tanner Glass – Brandon Sutter – Matt Cooke
Dustin Jaffray – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Simon Despres – Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Ben Lovejoy – Deryk Engelland
Injured: Matt Niskanen
Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Eric Tangradi
With Niskanan out two-to-four weeks because of a lower-body injury sustained early in the Sunday game at Ottawa, rookie Despres regains his spot in the lineup. Based on pure skill alone, the former first-round pick is the only Penguins defenseman who can compare to Letang. Expect, though, the ice-time split to mirror the game in Ottawa: Letang, Orpik and Martin could play 25-plus minutes, with Despres, Lovejoy and Engelland in the mid-teens.
Jake Gardiner has said he has felt well enough to play for a couple days now. Wednesday, he got the official green light from the doctor -- and from his coach.
Gardiner, the gifted young Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman who has been out since Dec. 8 with a concussion, is expected to make his season debut in the Pittsburgh Penguins' home opener Wednesday, the Leafs said on their website.
"I feel good," Gardiner said after the morning skate but before he received medical clearance to play. "Excited to be back with the Leafs."
Here are the projected lineups for Wednesday night's game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins:
Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Mike Brown – Jay McClement – Colton Orr
Dion Phaneuf – Michael Kostka
Carl Gunnarsson – Mike Komisarek
John-Michael Liles – Jake Gardiner
Scratched: Cody Franson, Mark Fraser, David Steckel
Gardiner will make his season debut after being cleared by the Leafs' medical staff and activated by the Leafs. He hasn't played since suffering a concussion while playing for the Leafs' AHL farm team, the Toronto Marlies, on Dec. 8. He bumped Franson from the lineup.
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Matt Niskanen – Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Simon Despres – Deryk Engelland
Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Dustin Jeffrey, Ben Lovejoy
As is his custom, coach Dan Bylsma did not reveal his lineup, but there is a chance that Bortuzzo makes his season debut in place of Despres against the Leafs. While praising Despres' overall talent level, Bylsma was lukewarm when discussing the 21-year-old's play in season-opening wins at Philadelphia and the New York Rangers this past weekend.
Obviously a lot happened in a short period of time. At the end of the day, considering everything I went through, I really felt close to my teammates and I really feel like what we accomplished, I know we didn't win it all. ... I'm really proud of how we got there and what we did once we got there.
— Rangers forward Martin St. Louis to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com