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 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.
"If I'm in or if I'm in throughout the series, it's going to because I'm ready to play," Vitale said. "It's exciting. It's the best time of the year. I came to the rink this morning, I got up before my alarm and kind of got the butterflies going again."
The Penguins are awaiting the return of forward Marcel Goc (foot), who has been working out on his own, and will not have forward Pascal Dupuis (season-ending ACL surgery) during their playoff run. Pittsburgh ended the regular season with more than 500 man-games lost to injury.
Columbus forwards RJ Umberger (upper body) and Nick Foligno (lower body) took the ice at the end of the Blue Jackets' morning skate. They did a light skate with goalie Jeremy Smith and will not play in Game 1.
The two days between the series' first two games could allow at least one of the forwards to return in Game 2.
The Blue Jackets lost each of their five regular-season games against Pittsburgh. Much of their lineup has limited playoff experience, but Columbus coach Todd Richards didn't sense any nerves during the morning skate.
"I thought there was really good energy. I thought we had great focus out on the ice," Richards said. "Moments like this, I think all the hype of playing Game 1, a lot of guys' first games, that gets you focused really quick."
Here are the projected lineups: