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Posted On Thursday, 02.07.2013 / 7:20 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Poti out, Hamrlik in for Capitals vs. Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti is not playing in Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins due to a upper-body injury.

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.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.07.2013 / 7:03 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Injured Letang out for Penguins vs. Capitals

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is not in the lineup Thursday against the Washington Capitals.

He is out with a lower-body injury.

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.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.07.2013 / 2:47 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Pittsburgh native Reese excited for Pens' opportunity

PITTSBURGH -- Dylan Reese was born in Pittsburgh approximately two months after the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Mario Lemieux and a little more than two months before Le Magnifique made his NHL debut.

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.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.07.2013 / 12:48 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Capitals

PITTSBURGH -- The projected lines and defensemen pairings for tonight's game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center:

PENGUINS

Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyPascal Dupuis

Zach BoychukEvgeni MalkinJames Neal

Matt CookeBrandon SutterTyler Kennedy

Tanner GlassJoe VitaleCraig Adams

Simon DespresKris Letang

Brooks OrpikPaul Martin

Robert BortuzzoDeryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tomas Vokoun

Injured: Matt Niskanen

Scratched: Eric Tangradi, Dustin Jeffrey, Dylan Reese

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.

CAPITALS

Wojtek Wolski - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Joey Crabb - Joel Ward

Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Eric Fehr

Karl Alzner - Mike Green

Jeff Schultz - John Carlson

Tom Poti - Tomas Kundratek

Michal Neuvirth

Braden Holtby

Scratches: Roman Hamrlik, Mathieu Perreault

Suspended: John Erskine

Injured: Jack Hillen, Brooks Laich, Dimitri Orlov
   
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.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 2:04 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Hamonic good to go; Joensuu out 5-7 weeks

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.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 1:40 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Despres to replace injured Niskanen next to Letang

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."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 12:46 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Islanders, Penguins

PITTSBURGH - Here are the projected lineups for a game Tuesday night between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center:

ISLANDERS

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

Evgeni Nabokov
Rick DiPietro

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.
   
PENGUINS

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

Marc-Andre Fleury
Tomas Vokoun

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.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.23.2013 / 6:14 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Leafs will have Gardiner in lineup vs. Penguins

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."

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.23.2013 / 1:24 PM

By Chris Adamski -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Penguins

Here are the projected lineups for Wednesday night's game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins:

MAPLE LEAFS
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

James Reimer
Ben Scrivens

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.


PENGUINS

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

Marc-Andre Fleury
Tomas Vokoun

Injured: None
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.
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Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season