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Posted On Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 1:15 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Malkin, Vitale likely to play Game 1 for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- All indications point toward the Pittsburgh Penguins having their healthiest lineup in several months entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Forwards Evgeni Malkin (foot) and Joe Vitale (mid body) skated for the second consecutive day Wednesday morning. Neither has been officially announced as part of Pittsburgh's lineup for Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC), but their returns are likely.

Malkin worked in his normal spot as the second-line center, while Vitale centered the fourth line between forwards Brian Gibbons and Craig Adams.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.15.2014 / 1:59 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Penguins pave way for returns with demotions to AHL

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins reassigned three players to the American Hockey League Tuesday to seemingly make room for players returning from injury.

Defenseman Simon Despres and forwards Chuck Kobasew and Harry Zolnierczyk were reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League prior to Game 1 of Pittsburgh’s first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, FS-O, ROOT).

The departures would allow for the return of forwards Evgeni Malkin and Joe Vitale.

“Obviously, it’s been a long year with a lot of different guys,” Vitale said. “But it’s a good feeling, obviously to see [Malkin] out there and [defenseman Paul Martin] and just see those faces and Kris [Letang]. Just to see those faces and the energy they bring, the energy on the ice is kind of contagious throughout the whole locker room, so it’s something special and we’re obviously thankful to have those guys back.”

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Posted On Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 12:49 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Injured Penguins skate, but questionable for Game 1

PITTSBURGH -- Three injured players participated in the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sunday morning skate, but did not technically rejoin practice.

Forwards Evgeni Malkin, Joe Vitale and Chris Conner skated with the Penguins in an optional skate before their game against the Ottawa Senators. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said they chose to take the option to skate, but should not be considered to have rejoined Pittsburgh at practice.

Malkin, Vitale and Conner will not play in Pittsburgh's regular-season finale and Bylsma could not confirm if they would be healthy to play in Game 1 of the Penguins' first round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I don't have an expectation, nor do I have a definitive answer on what players will be available for Game 1," Bylsma said.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.12.2014 / 2:07 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins' Kunitz, Orpik out against Flyers

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Brooks Orpik will not play Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Kunitz and Orpik will sit for the second time in the past three games. They are listed as day-to-day and their ailments are not expected to be long-term issues, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Penguins forward Harry Zolnierczyk will play against his former team after being recalled Friday from the American Hockey League.

The Flyers would clinch third place in the Metropolitan Division and a date with the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a regulation or overtime victory. If they win in a shootout or lose, they will have to await the results of the final games for the Columbus Blue Jackets (Saturday night) and potentially the Detroit Red Wings (Sunday) before learning their playoff opponent.

Kunitz, who serves as the net-front presence on the Penguins' top-ranked power play, has scored a career-high 67 points and 35 goals in 77 games this season. His contributions could be missed against the Flyers, whose special teams were dominant in a weekend series against the Penguins on March 15 and 16.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 12:56 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins' Crosby, Kunitz in after one-game absences

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will welcome back several players to their lineup when they face the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

In addition to the return of defenseman Kris Letang, forwards Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were back at their normal positions on Pittsburgh's top line during the morning skate Wednesday, and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma confirmed defenseman Olli Maatta will be paired with defenseman Matt Niskanen against Detroit.

Crosby and Maatta missed the Penguins' game against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday each with an upper-body injury, and Kunitz was sidelined with a lower-body injury.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.01.2014 / 12:36 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Hurricanes could be without two top forwards

PITTSBURGH -- The Carolina Hurricanes could be without two-thirds of their top line when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.

Forwards Andrei Loktionov and Jiri Tlusty each left Carolina's game against the Ottawa Senators on Monday with injuries. The Hurricanes recalled forward Chris Terry from the Charlotte Checkers, their American Hockey League affiliate, on an emergency basis Tuesday.

Carolina cancelled its morning skate Tuesday, so the look of their lineup, including the status of the injured players, won't be known until closer to game time.

Pittsburgh forward Jussi Jokinen, who spent parts of five seasons with Carolina, said he still has relationships with Hurricanes players and doesn't enjoy seeing his former team struggle.

"I follow them and I think this is the fifth year they've missed the playoffs in a row," Jokinen said. "It's tough on their organization. There's big expectations. Obviously they made it to the conference finals in '09 and after that it's been tough.

"There are a lot of good players there but I don't think there's one reason. I think there's many reasons they haven't been able to get back to the playoffs."

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Posted On Sunday, 03.30.2014 / 1:05 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Maatta back in Penguins' lineup against Blackhawks

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will return to the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday after being a healthy scratch Friday.

Maatta, a 19-year-old rookie, did not play against the Columbus Blue Jackets after playing in 72 of Pittsburgh's first 73 games of the season. His production has decreased in recent weeks and he has been a minus in six of his past 12 games.

"Obviously, you want to play every game. You don't want to take games off," Maatta said. "But I feel like it was good for me. It's been a long season. It's been a lot of games. It's been a really new situation for me.

"I've never played this many games in my life."

Maatta has 28 points and nine goals in 72 games this season.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.27.2014 / 1:10 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins' Zatkoff gets start against Kings

PITTSBURGH -- Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff will start for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

Zatkoff, who was drafted in the third round (No. 74) by the Kings in 2006, has gone 12-2-1 since beginning the season 0-2-0. The Penguins have lost eight of their past 11 games in which No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has started. He'll go Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"We started the season with [Zatkoff] and you can look at his first game, and people wondered if he could play," Bylsma said. "He played a second game, I think it was a loss to the [New York] Islanders and you still have those questions. Right now, you look at the wins he's got this year, it's pretty impressive.

"He's played well for us. He's played strong for us. He's won hockey games for us."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.25.2014 / 8:05 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins' Malkin out 2-3 weeks with foot injury

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 23 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 72
SOG: 191 | +/-: 10
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin will miss 2-3 weeks with a foot injury.

Malkin was injured while in front of the net in his first shift against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. Malkin did not practice Monday, which was said to be due to a day off for the Penguins' Olympians except forward Chris Kunitz.

Bylsma said Malkin will not need surgery.

A past winner of the Hart, Art Ross and Conn Smythe trophies, Malkin did not participate in Pittsburgh's morning skate before its game Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes and was replaced by forward Brandon Sutter on the second line between forwards Jussi Jokinen and James Neal.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.23.2014 / 12:20 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins start Fleury in goal, Blues go with Elliott

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues will make a change in net after each team played Saturday.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will start for Pittsburgh in its second of back-to-back games this weekend. Goalie Jeff Zatkoff earned his 12th win of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Fleury is still searching for his 35th win of the season as the Penguins have not won in his past three starts. He has allowed three or more goals in each of his three starts since shutting out the Washington Capitals on March 11.

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Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season